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Major refit of Nairn Co-op to include restoration of Art Deco gable wall following discussions with town's BID team

By Donald Wilson

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BID director Bob Ferenth and BID chairman Peter Gibson outside the former cinema in Nairn, which forms part of the Co-op building.
BID director Bob Ferenth and BID chairman Peter Gibson outside the former cinema in Nairn, which forms part of the Co-op building.

A £1.5 million refit is scheduled for the Co-op’s main store in Nairn town centre, and the project will include the restoration of an Art Deco gable wall which has been a longstanding eyesore at the entrance to the town.

The wall, which forms part of the former Regal cinema dating back to the early 1940s, is on a prominent site on the A96.

The Co-op secured a building warrant in February for a complete refit of its store, including the addition of an in-store bakery. It has promised the works will be carried out next year.

The move follows discussions with the Nairn BID team.

"It has taken time to get the Co-op issue resolved," said BID director Bob Ferenth.

"But we have had constructive dialogue with the Co-op who have listened to our concerns.

"The good news is it should be happening by the end of 2022.

"The work at the 24/7 taxi building was initiated by BID through a compulsory repair order. It’s involved extensive repairs to stonework and chimneys, but work stalled during the pandemic. However, the end is in sight and we have permission to carry out painting the shop as well."

Local businessman Ali Ross criticised the Co-op recently on social media for neglecting the gable for so many years.

At one time Nairn West Community Council intervened and a coat of paint was applied.

"I’m pleased something now appears to be happening," Mr Ross said.

"I would like to see it done sooner though because it’s gone on for too long.

"This is the first thing people travelling east on the A96 see when they pass through Nairn. I am sure something creative could be done with that wall.

"And I have sympathy with the operator of the bar/diner below who keeps his property in immaculate condition.

"If this doesn’t happen until late next year, that’s another summer when visitors to Nairn will be subjected to this eyesore and it’s not necessary."

The former Regal cinema complex in King Street, which forms part of the Co-op store, has had many roles in entertainment in the 20th century including a dance and music venue, roller-skating arena and bingo hall and pubs.

Part of the property was demolished and made way for a supermarket in the 1990s.

The frontage, including the projection room and corner bar remained, but the Art Deco gable, which was a feature of many cinemas built in the 1930s and 1940s, has fallen into disrepair with deteriorating paintwork and cracked and broken windows.

Mr Ferenth, who is managing a town centre facelift for BID, said the Co-op project would be a major boost.

"They have their building warrant for the refurbishment and improving the gable is included in that," he said.

"It makes sense to undertake a long-term solution rather than just a mural or a cosmetic makeover.

"I have met with their head of real estate on site and our chairman Peter Gibson wrote directly to the chief executive of the Co-op, Steve Murrells, who referred the matter to their property estate team.

"He is aware of the issues, and is backing the refurbishment, which is a full rebranding of their store in Nairn. They understand the issues, and are seeking to address them, and they are also looking at improvements to their High Street store."

A Co-op spokesman said: "Co-op is committed to investing in communities to better serve our members and customers by, among other things, transforming stores.

"A rolling programme of investment is in place, and major investment is planned for our Nairn store, which will include fixing the gable wall.

"While it is too early to confirm all the details, the investment and improvements are expected to take place in the new year."

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