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‘Overwhelmed by response’ – petition against plan to move library in Nairn town centre to new academy is signed 1547 times

By Donald Wilson

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Pam Bochel with the petition at Nairn Library
Pam Bochel with the petition at Nairn Library

The community of Nairn has indicated ‘overwhelming’ opposition to the relocation of the public library from Nairn’s town centre to a new secondary school to be built in Duncan Drive.

A petition signed by 1547 people in opposition to the removal of the service from High Street to the school campus which is hoped to be completed in 2025 has been gathered.

Nairn Connects BID, who support the business interests of the town, have also expressed their opposition to the move as it would reduce footfall in the commercial hub of Nairn.

The petitioners are also supported by both Nairn West and Suburban Community Council and Nairn River CC who have been consistent in their opposition to the removal of the library from the town centre and have argued existing disused and underused buildings could be utilised.

The petition was set up calling on Highland Council to keep the library in a central location.

A lease on the existing building, a former supermarket, is soon to expire.

Campaigners say there are options available for the library collection including the former Free Church School which could be extended.

Pam Bochel who organised the petition said: “We have 834 supporters who have signed the online petition, and a further 713 signed paper copies in High Street businesses, giving a total of 1,547 signatures.

“So it is clear there has been overwhelming support from members of the public and from businesses to keep the library in the centre of town.”

“The library is a vital part of the town centre, and it offers so much more than just books to borrow - it provides access to computers, computing tuition, Wi-Fi, printers, photocopiers, and is a meeting place for many community groups such as Book Bug sessions for children and a Gaelic conversation group.

“Its central location is accessible, on a bus route and has parking nearby. Moving the library out of town, not on a bus route, would make it inaccessible and it would also have a detrimental effect on footfall for High Street businesses.

“I have been using Nairn library since it was in Viewfield when I was a child. In those days it was an austere place, with noise of any kind frowned upon. “Since then the library has moved to the High Street and has become a lively welcoming place for the whole community.

“I have been overwhelmed not only by the number of members of the public who have voiced their support and signed the petition, but also by the many business owners who were very happy to carry copies of the petition in their premises.”

Provost Laurie Fraser said: “I am totally opposed to the moving of the library from the town centre to the new academy as it is totally impractical for anyone to walk from the town centre to the new academy, let alone from the east of Nairn to the new academy”.

Highland Council set up a stakeholder group to consider the plans for the new academy.

But Ms Bochel said library users were not included in the consultation and the academy.

At an open evening at the school earlier this month to members of the public and the two community councils criticised the total lack of details provided with a formal design and planning application to be submitted in September.

Ms Bochel added:”Although there is no representation from library users in this group, the Council have stated that the petition will be included in the group’s considerations.”

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “A decision has not yet been made regarding the future location of Nairn Library. The Council is currently reviewing the feedback received from a recent public consultation, hosted by High Life Highland on behalf of the Council.

“The Council recently held a public drop in event at Nairn Academy which community members were invited to attend. During the event, details of the site analysis and accommodation requirements were presented for comment. The feedback received will inform the design development for the school over the next few months. Details of the design will be presented to the community at the next consultation event in September, prior to the planning submission.”

• Information on the project can be found at the Highland Council website.

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