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Objection raised over plans for new Nairn Academy

By Federica Stefani

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View from south east. Picture: Reiach and Hall Architects.
View from south east. Picture: Reiach and Hall Architects.

The protection of trees and the potential move of the public library into the new building are among the concerns raised recently over plans for the new Nairn Academy.

In a document published in March, Highland Council’s forestry team has objected to current plans for the new building.

Forestry officer Grant Stuart has raised concerns over the lack of specific information on the extent of tree removal on the site and says the proposals would go against Policy 51 (Trees and Development) of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan which states the council will support development which ”promotes significant protection to existing hedges, trees and woodlands on and around development sites.”

On the consultation response document, Mr Stuart stated: “The lack of schedule and AIA (Arboricultural Impact Assessment (means it is not possible to comment on the quality of the trees proposed to be removed and given the scale of tree removals I am concerned the proposals would not accord with policy 51 of the (development plan) as they don’t appear to promote significant protection to existing trees and woodlands on the site. I therefore object to the application pending further information.”

The applicant will have to submit further documentation – a tree survey and tree schedule, an AIA and a detailed Arboricultural Method Statement.

Another issue raised by Nairn residents and Nairn West and Suburban Community Council (NWSCC) is the possibility of seeing Nairn Public Library relocated to the new school – a move which has been strongly opposed by many since it was first proposed in a public consultation in 2022.

Members of NWSCC issued a letter to the council in response to the planning application for the academy, noting the “continued references” in planning documents – among which the Design and Access Statement – to the “provision of a community library located at the new school”.

They wrote: “The Design and Access Statement references may be artefacts and inconsistent with current plans and we have received clear messages that our local councillors do not support the library relocation and are not aware of current plans to do so.

“Nevertheless, the references are somewhat concerning to our community group and no doubt to Pamela Bochel and the Nairn residents who signed her petition and submitted consultation comments.“There has been a strong message from Nairn residents and community organisations, including Nairn West & Suburban Council, that Nairn's library service should not move to the new school.

“Therefore, we request confirmation that the statements referencing a library are not relevant to the current plans and, preferably, request that such statements are removed from the current documentation.”

The community council’s vice-chairman, Alastair Noble, said that including the library in the plans could risk delaying the opening of the school.

He said: “Our number one priority at the moment is to make sure that the school gets built as soon as possible. The children need a good school and a proper building.

“Because of this, we are strongly asking not to involve discussions about the library in any planning application – that is not sensible at the present moment in our opinion.

“What we don’t need are objections that slow down the process. The clear priority is building a new school.

“1600 people signed the petition saying that the library should stay in the town centre. That does not mean that other options shouldn’t be looked at, but this should be part of the discussion for the town centre regeneration.”

In the last meeting on March 25, community council members agreed to write requesting a response to their last letter and that the public library references be removed from the planning documentation.

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