Highland councillor Tom Heggie dismisses conspiracy theories on Nairn CCTV review are ‘rubbish’
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Highland Council’s area leader in Nairn, Tom Heggie, has dismissed claims by residents that there could be a hidden agenda in a review of CCTV coverage in the town by describing the suggestions as “absolute rubbish”.
Members of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council (NWSCC) raised fears that the proposals could be part of a plan to enforce parking charges in Nairn – which are being strongly resisted.
Nairn BID was asked to carry out a survey on the matter through its members.
But NWSCC chairwoman Sheena Baker said the town’s community councils seemed to be consulted as an “afterthought”.
Mrs Baker has been a strong opponent of parking charges in the town centre because of the potential impact on a already struggling business economy.
Councillor Heggie conceded off-street parking in the town centre may in the future be subject to charges – but he stressed the CCTV review had nothing to do with that.
Community councillor Brian Stewart said no reasons had been given for the review of CCTV, giving rise to the suspicion that the real ulterior motive was parking monitoring and enforcement which can be done by remote CCTV monitoring using the DVLA’s automatic number-plate recognition.
In a strongly worded email to Mrs Baker, Cllr Heggie stated: “The suggestion that this is in any way connected to monitoring parking charges etc is ludicrous.
“There is a suggestion that there is a hidden (conspiracy) agenda around this – absolute rubbish.
“This would require a completely different specification for such cameras and this is in no way on the agenda.
“The council is upgrading existing analogue cameras to digital and streamlining the monitoring of the system.
“In each locality they are asking if there are any additional areas in towns and villages where additional cameras may be helpful in monitoring antisocial behaviour to enable the police to reduce this.”
Cllr Heggie said the only additional area where there is antisocial behaviour which may be reduced using an additional camera, which he has suggested, is on the riverside at the skate park.
“A similar installation in Dingwall reduced antisocial behaviour by 40 per cent,” he said.
“It is a fact that there is extensive vandalism around the town centre toilets which could be monitored by a new camera. Demolition of the old social work building would also have helped reduce the opportunity to vandalise this facility.
“The new system of monitoring will also help the police to respond more quickly to incidents and indeed the failure of the analogue cameras in the past has led to the police being unable to gain convictions.
“This is a genuine attempt to improve safety on the streets of our towns.”
On the issue of parking charges, Cllr Heggie maintained that there was a need to get income from people coming to Nairn and using its facilities to finance infrastructure.
The current voluntary charging at the Maggot and Cumming Street car parks which were part of that process, and any further plans for charges, would be the subject of further consultation.
He added that some time in the future off-street parking charges in the town centre may have to be considered but the CCTV plans had nothing to do with any parking charge considerations.
However, he stressed there would be no on-street parking charges on the High Street which already has a one-hour restriction on parking.
Mr Stewart said: “It is good that we finally have answers to our questions. But why wasn’t this information provided at the outset?
“It is a pity the CCTV review wasn’t properly and publicly explained earlier. If there had been openness and transparency we would not have needed to ask questions, and there would have been no speculation about the purpose of the review.”