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Sandown Lands consultation in Nairn said to be 'dishonest' after results of first consultation 'not listened to' by Highland Council

By Louise Glen

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Sandown Lands fields on either side of the road into Nairn. Picture: James Mackenzie
Sandown Lands fields on either side of the road into Nairn. Picture: James Mackenzie

A move agreeing to extend consultations over the future of the Sandown Lands has led to Highland Council being accused of acting “dishonestly.”

Nairn Councillors approved a council plan to renew and extend the engagement process until the end of the year to canvas more people.

The original 15 week consultation saw locals and two community councils send in a total of 98 responses with 85 against the plan – but that was deemed insufficient.

The local authority said it was concerned that “only a very small proportion” of Nairn took part and key groups did not respond.

The local authority hit back at suggestions it was trying to rerun the consultation to get a different answer after local opinion was largely against the move.

The expanded consultation aims to clarify the development brief underpinning the proposals while the responses will be combined, not removed, from the final engagement.

Nairn River Community Council heard it was "deeply disturbing" that a consultation was expanded after the community sided with not selling the land.

Brian Stewart, who attended last Wednesday evening from Nairn West and Suburban Community Council, said: "It is deeply disturbing that Highland Council thinks it can re-run this consultation.

"I would suggest it is an abuse of process, there has been a consultation and it has delivered a verdict. It should not be re-run. It is disrespectful to community councils to re-run it."

Nairn River Community Councillor Mandy Lawson said: "It is as though Highland Council are re-running the consultation until they get the answer we want.

"We spent hundreds of hours replying to the consultation. We are a statutory consultee and our feelings that the land should not be sold still stands."

Drawing the discussion to a close, chairman Hamish Bain penned a statement to show its "disquiet" about the sale of the land.

It read: "Nairn River Community Council holds the view that the Sandown Lands consultation result showed strong opposition to the sale of the land and to rerun the consultation is condescending, patronising and could be perceived as dishonest.”

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Whilst nearly 100 responses had been received, that was a small figure when compared to the population of Nairn and it was also noted that some key groups within the community had not participated.

"In addition, it was considered that there was some misunderstanding regarding the contents of the Sandown Development Brief, the contents of which underpin much of the consultation document.

"Therefore, a further period of consultation has been agreed by members of the Nairnshire Committee to ensure the opportunity to comment is given to as many members of the Nairn community as possible and a short life reference group will be established to help facilitate this process.

"This is not a re-running of the original consultation but a process to allow for the gathering of additional, detailed information as well as to give anyone who has not previously participated the opportunity to comment.”

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