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Trustees of Seaman's Hall in Nairn decline request by community council to transfer ownership of heritage building to Green Hive charity

By Donald Wilson

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Simon Noble, chairman of Nairn Green Hive, and Ninian Coggs, convener of Nairn Seaman's Hall Trustees outside the Seaman's Hall.
Simon Noble, chairman of Nairn Green Hive, and Ninian Coggs, convener of Nairn Seaman's Hall Trustees outside the Seaman's Hall.

The trustees of the Seaman’s Hall have declined a request from Nairn River Community Council to meet and discuss their plans to transfer ownership of the facility to the charity Green Hive.

The trustees have been struggling to keep the building running and with an ageing membership and no plans for its long term sustainability they have entered into discussion with Green Hive (GH), who received £25,000 of Place Based Investment Funds to carry out a study to investigate the viability of its future use.

Built in 1887 the hall was once a central part of Fishertown community life but recently has been used only for indoor bowling and as an election polling station.

At the April meeting of the Nairn River CC, members were told they had written to the trustees after approaches by the public concerned about the future of the hall.

“We have had a direct refusal to meet and been told it’s nothing to do with us from a legal standpoint,” said Hamish Bain, chairman of Nairn River CC.

“That’s a bit disappointing given that we were offering support and made the request following an approach by the public.”

Brian Stewart, secretary of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council (NWSCC), said the GH plan was dependant on getting a very substantial grant from Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

The cost was £1.2 million and Mr Stewart said: “What happens if that money is not forthcoming? If Green Hive can’t raise the money what are the trustees going to do?”

The Seaman's Hall in Harbour Street, Nairn.
The Seaman's Hall in Harbour Street, Nairn.

Both Nairn River and Nairn West and Suburban CCs have criticised the way Nairn’s Highland councillors awarded a grant of £25,000 from the Place Based Investment Fund to Green Hive to undertake a feasibility study for the hall project.

Both councils say there was no opportunity given to other potential bidders and the money could be invested in other projects including the town centre revitalisation and public toilets.

At the April NWSCC meeting Mr Stewart said: “It’s not in our area but the hall is part of the heritage of the town and there are different views about how it can be sustained.

"The issue is a substantial amount of public money is being sought to underwrite a particular bidder’s wishlist. The question is, is the Seaman’s Hall the top priority for public money which may be available to Nairn?”

In his response to Nairn River CC’s request for a meeting, chairman of trustees, Ninian Coggs, told them he had consulted his fellow trustees and advised them that the hall was not an asset of the common good nor was it subject to any trust deed.

He said: “The River CC were asking us to delay the transfer suggesting it could be illegal and they were offering to help in attracting new trustees to help make the hall sustainable.”

He told the Inverness Courier: “We are convinced the transfer of the hall to Green Hive is the best option to ensure the future of the building itself and also to retain it as a viable asset to the town.”

He said a survey taken by Green Hive would seem to support that view with 85 per cent in favour of the transfer, 9 per cent with no view either way and only the remaining 6 per cent against and trustees have been advised by all relevant bodies that their actions are wholly compliant with the hall constitution.

“All we want as Trustees is what is best for the hall. We don’t have the money even to maintain the hall. But Green Hive may be able to access the necessary funding.”

He added: “I would be keen to know who the members of the public are that have approached the River CC. Because they haven’t approached me..If something isn’t done to secure the hall’s future long term it will have to go on the market and could be lost to the community.”

Seaman's Hall in Nairn could be given new lease of life

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