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Answers demanded on Nairn CCTV coverage after community councillors asked for swift response to consultation

By Donald Wilson

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Sheena Baker with one of Nairn's CCTV cameras.
Sheena Baker with one of Nairn's CCTV cameras.

COMMUNITY councillors are demanding answers about the purpose of potentially extending CCTV coverage in Nairn.

Questions have been raised following an email to the town’s two community councils from Highland councillor Peter Saggers, giving them a matter of days to respond to a consultation on the issue.

Nairn BID had been asked by the council to carry out a survey of its members, but chairwoman of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council (NWSCC), Sheena Baker, said the community councils seemed to have been consulted as “an afterthought”. She raised concerns that areas mentioned in proposed extended coverage included three car parks on Common Good Land at the seafront.

She fears the proposed extension could be part of a wider plan to enforce parking charges, a move which has been resisted for years because of worries of a negative impact on town centre businesses.

Nairn BID has stressed its only role in the matter is to circulate the survey to members, and Highland Council’s principal traffic management officer, Shane Manning, refuted in an email to community councils any suggestion that the review was about closer monitoring of parking areas.

Nevertheless, community councillor Brian Stewart said at a recent meeting that the survey “contained very selective, targeted and loaded questions”.

He added: “We had to dig and delve for information to find that this matter was discussed at a Highland Council Nairnshire ward business meeting.”

Earlier this year a statement from Highland Council quoted area chairman, Councillor Tom Heggie, stating funds raised from the currently voluntary parking charges at the town’s links could be spent on CCTV.

But this was later denied by Cllr Heggie.

Mr Stewart said that through a Freedom of Information request it had been established from the records of the Nairnshire ward business meeting on August 6 that the report on CCTV was submitted by Richard Pope, the council’s official responsible for the system.

Mr Stewart added: “This leaves two key questions unanswered. First, we still don’t know why Mr Pope was asked to attend and brief the ward business meeting in early August. Who arranged this and invited him, and for what reason?

“Secondly, there was no indication in the records – nor has there been since – of who designed, devised and launched the survey and for what purpose.

“We have no information to tell us if it’s an anti-crime measure or to combat vandalism. There is no information if the police are involved.

“It wasn’t the BID people. So who is behind this initiative, and why?”

Mr Stewart added: “This again raised the suspicion that the real ulterior motive was car parking monitoring and enforcement.

“People have not been slow to realise that remote CCTV monitoring could be used with the DVLA’s ANPR (Automatic Number-Plate Recognition) database to issue penalties and collect fines online.”

The community council is to write to the council seeking a full explanation on what is driving the CCTV plans and who compiled the survey.

Highland Council was asked for a response but failed to provide one before deadline.

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