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Concern over Nairn town centre car park losing bays to Highland Council development

By Donald Wilson

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THE main car park in Nairn town centre has been divided during work on a controversial development by Highland Council.

Twelve flats and a new office for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) are nearing completion.

But already concerns have been raised that the access from the High Street to the new building blocks for cars across Court House Lane between two large car parking areas is now closed.

In a letter to constituents, Highland councillor Paul Oldham, who was elected to Highland Council in May, said the issue has been raised at a ward business meeting.

“We ward councillors are now asking officers what can be done to reverse this, with the suggestion that a raised pavement might be appropriate at that location.”

He said the closure was allegedly done to make pedestrian/cycle access to the High Street from the flats safer.

But a consequence of the decision means traffic entering the ‘library’ end of the car park has to go back through a set of lights at the entrance to the already congested A96 (King Street) if no spaces are available.

Councillor Oldham said the car park has been effectively split into two sections. “The bit east of the new CAB/flats only has access via traffic lights and the larger western part up to the Co-op, has separate entrance and exit roads,” he said.

“This blockage means that if you can’t find parking in one half of the car park, you have to go back out onto the A96 to get to the other half, with the added complication of the traffic lights if you began in the eastern area.”

Cllr Oldham said it appeared this was all contained in the plans when they were approved for the new CAB office and flats.

He says it should have been picked up by the then-serving ward councillors when it came up at a planning committee.

Finishing touches are being made to landscaping around the development with occupants of the flats and the CAB expected to move in soon.

The project was mired in controversy as community councils wanted to block the project to use the site for coach parking to boost the economy of the High Street.

The then-serving councillors had their fingers rapped by the Ombudsman for directing £198,000, which was meant to be spent on town centre regeneration, towards the £3.2 million project.

The council has appealed the findings of the Ombudsman and the outcome of that appeal is still awaited.

Nairn River Community Council objected to the closure at the planning stage insisting there should have been a full public consultation.

Dr Joan Noble, of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council, said: “There’s no reason to block it off.

“This access has been used for years with no accidents.

Now traffic may go straight to Sainsbury’s instead of the town centre if these car parks are congested.”

It was estimated more than 30 valued town centre parking spaces were lost to the development.

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