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Nairn concern over fears that east of town now 'preferred' site for houses

By Donald Wilson

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Alastair Noble and Hamish Bain in area facing development.
Alastair Noble and Hamish Bain in area facing development.

HIGHLAND Council could be about to do a U-turn in their latest Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan by recommending expansion to the east of Nairn with 290 homes.

The move comes as developer Springfield published its findings on preliminary public consultations for its plans to build the equivalent of a new village in the area with more than 600 houses beyond the existing Balmakeith retail park.

The council previously described the area – at Balmakeith, Househill and Achnacloich – as “non-preferred” for such a development, but it has now become “preferred”.

Springfield says 300 houses could be built on the site before the delivery of the new Nairn bypass.

A local action group is being formed to resist the proposals because some Nairn residents fear up to 1000 houses could eventually be built on the site.

The revised draft council plan was up for discussion by the local authority’s Nairn area committee on Wednesday. (Dec 1)It is expected to be ratified by councillors next month. If approved, a consultation process will start next year.

But Nairn River and Nairn West and Suburban community councils have sent a joint letter to Nairnshire councillors urging them to “show local leadership by standing up for Nairn” and its residents.

Alastair Noble, vice-chairman (Nairn West and Suburban) and Hamish Bain, chairman (Nairn River) are insistent investment in infrastructure including adequate roads, drainage, schools, leisure facilities and the Nairn bypass should come before any new major housebuilding.

“The Nairn community is now suffering multiple infrastructure crises,” stated the letter.

“Nairn is not receiving its fair share of Highland budgets, and this too is now biting hard into the provision of local services and amenities.

“Many of these problems have accelerated into crises because of poor decision-making by Highland councillors and significant failures in cohesive local development planning.”

There has already been an outcry from some residents following major housing development at Lochloy.

The community councils believe it went ahead with no amenities and no new direct access to the A96, causing traffic problems.

Springfield was involved in the latter stages of the development, but in its responses to consultation on their Nairn East plans it stated the problems at Lochloy preceded its involvement.

The Inverness Courier exclusively revealed in March Springfield’s plans, which include a school, recreational areas and shopping facilities to develop east of Nairn.

The Nairn East site had previously been deemed "non-preferred" in the original council plan on the grounds that major new infrastructure would be needed and parts of the site were on a flood plain.

Now the council says in its next 10-year plan that it could allow 290 houses at Nairn East.

In total, the recommended development sites in the draft council plan also include Achareidh (30), Farmers’ Showfield East (20), town centre (20) and Sandown (150).

Springfield’s blueprint shows the flood risk area being developed principally for recreation and leisure and in the publication of its findings gives reassurances that any potential flooding issues from development can be overcome.

The developer added a flood risk assessment will be prepared for Nairn East.

Springfield Properties north managing director Dave Main said: “We are at very early stages of our proposals for Nairn East and a vital aspect of the design process is community engagement.

“Our vision for Nairn East is to create a sustainable new neighbourhood that will feed into the existing town of Nairn – a place with a range of apartments, houses and bungalows, across different tenures so there is something for everyone; a place that could include business opportunities from local shops to cafés and hairdressers to nurseries so those living in the area have everything they need within 20 minutes of their home; a place with areas for children to play, green open space, allotments, walking and cycle paths that feed into existing routes, linear green corridors and tree-lined streets.

“We want Nairn East to be a community that the people of Nairn are proud of.”

The council’s only option for major development has been to sell of Common Good Land at Sandown to the west of Nairn.

But that proposal is facing strong opposition from community councils and locals who accuse the council of trying to selling off “the town’s family silver”.

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