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Majority in Nairn opposes common good land plan for Sandown, report reveals – it will be considered at a meeting of Highland Council’s Nairnshire committee tomorrow


By Donald Wilson

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Sandown lands.
Sandown lands.

An overwhelming majority of people who have responded to proposals to market common good lands at Sandown are opposed to the move.

Following months of consultation, a report on the matter is set to be considered at a meeting of Highland Council’s Nairnshire committee tomorrow.

The report states the move would allow for a much more varied and smarter use of the land to be considered, including the possible provision of housing, leisure, retail and community and green space as well as retention of wetlands.

“Any sale proceeds would also provide capital investment funds for Nairn Common Good and the town,” the report states.

“The provision of affordable housing, which is one of the potential benefits of utilising this land, would have a positive socio-economic benefit to those within the community on lower incomes.”

There has been strong opposition locally to the wholesale offloading of Sandown including concerns that it could be sold too cheaply – believed to be worth £22 million in 2006 it is currently valued at just £7 million.

The report acknowledges a risk of volatility in the market as well as acknowledging the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The consultation and court application process (necessary to approve the disposal of a Common Good asset) is lengthy and, as a result the council cannot act quickly to take advantage of short-term improvements in market conditions,” it adds.

“However, by seeking approval for the disposal in principle, the council would be able to react quickly to changing market conditions to ensure best value for Nairn Common Good Fund.”

While the Nairnshire committee will consider the report this week, it is not being asked to approve or reject the idea of selling the land at this point.

Instead the recommendation is that it agrees to allow time for “full reflection” and assessment of the comments received.

Ultimately the decision on whether or not to proceed to sale will be taken by the full Highland Council.

The committee can make one of three recommendations to council itself: agree disposal should go ahead subject to Sheriff Court approval; suggest the proposal be amended, with any significant amendment triggering a fresh consultation process; reject the proposal to sell.

A total of 98 responses were received to the recent consultation with three in support of a sale, 10 making comments both for and against and 85 objecting.

Supporters talk of the need for more social housing with some respondents accusing objectors of nimbyism on the basis they don’t want their views of Sandown spoiled.

They also say funds from the sale of the land could assist community activities and local charitable organisations and create additional tourist, environmental and business opportunities for the local economy.

Objectors say other sites for new housing have not yet been considered and accuse the council of using the site as a cheap option for itself and housing associations.

Fears have also been raised that Nairn would lose control of the proceeds of any sale though the report strongly refutes any suggestion the council would divert funds raised in this way for its statutory responsibilities.

• To view the full report visit here.

Related article: Decision day around corner for key Nairn site – the 38-hectare Sandown Farm Lands on the road into the town – over whether or not to proceed with marketing it for housing


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