Nairn River Community Council
Comhairle Coimhearsnachd Abhainn Narann
Minutes of the meeting held on 19 Sept 2018 at the Nairn Community and Arts Centre
Tommy Hogg, Mandy Lawson , Hamish Bain , Veronica Mackinnon, Iain Henderson, Iain Bruce,Steven Bain ,
Apologies Simon Noble, Cllr MacDonald , John Hume
Absent Members- Aidan McCormack, Paul McIvor
No Highland Councillors were present
Also Present Iain Bain ( Nairnshire Telegraph)
8 members of public including 4 members Nairn West and Suburban CC
Note ( post meeting)
Minutes , agenda and papers posted as usual on NRCC website and linked to Nairn social media a week in advance and meeting was advertised in Nairnshire Telegraph
However due to a technical issue meeting papers were not received by email by Councillors/Ward Manager
Declarations of interest
No interests were declared
Minutes of last meeting July 18 and Matters Arising
re Police report made in July re suspected badger sett tampering on NA2 Kingsteps site (now approved for housing) . Police investigating found no trace of recent badger activity around the blocked burrows some of which were rabbit holes, so the case was closed. We have received an email from Cllr MacDonald (landowner of NA2) accusing us of ‘wasting police time’ and ‘vindictive bullying’ . We refute this and as noted at last meeting were carrying our public duty as a CC in reporting suspected criminal activity which was notified to members by a local resident and raised in a public meeting.
Steven Bain proposed the minute and Hamish Bain seconded
Veronica Mackinnon reported £ 7737 on account and as new Treasurer will share reports electronically in future
Action since last meeting ( including correspondence)
THC has confirmed that it has already appointed a consultant using 15k of Nairn Common Good funds( without consulting Nairn communities) to lead on Plan Development.
Action -IB ML and T Hogg to attend Community Partnership meeting Mon 24 Sept - Iain Bruce TH and ML to attend
Action -re Links Devpt
joint NRCC /WSCC letter ( on our website ) sent to Councillors and Ward Manager asking for full community involvement and collaboration with local people including Team Hamish charity in progressing Links Development
Church Rd house plan has received objections from Highland flood team and SEPA
No other new applications of relevance to NRCC
Morganti application ( Forres Road) has withdrawn. No reason given. Could be opportunity for a Community buyout - Members HB TH ML volunteered to develop ideas and liaise with NICE Trust who could support a community led buyout application to Community Land Fund
SPAC has approved 2 major planning applications on NRCC patch, with split vote carried by Chairman
8 August Kingsteps 115 homes to extend Lochloy estate
5/5 plus Chairman casting vote (Cllr Heggie for , Cllr Fraser against)
a deferral for review requested by Laurie Fraser was rejected
September MacDonalds drive through and Home Bargains( at Sainsbury site)
8/8 plus Chairman casting vote (2 Nairn Cllrs voted in favour)
A deferral to obtain more developer funds for Balmakeith footpath access was rejected as was 24 hour opening
Highland Council 2018 DCSG now published, replacing 2013 guidance once approved by Scottish Government
Discussion on how Developer Contributions apply in Nairn Historic concerns at Lochloy re consistency of DC application and changes to Local Plan.
Kingsteps residents FOI request June 18 and response from HC circulated. This spreadsheet shows only £271,000 on record in HC accounts for Lochloy infrastructure since 2001 with 66,000 to come, for more than 700 houses. ( less than £500 per home)
There is no progress on promised Balmakeith Bridge ( for which 2000 per home was agreed) , and no school (cancelled and land relinquished to developer Springfield in 2014), or shops, at Lochloy as first planned. Residents concerns are also growing re water drainage and sewerage infrastructure capacity and unadopted roads
Latest Highland DC guidance will require developers to contribute over £8000 per home for infrastructure including schools and community facilities. Clearly Lochloy has been sold short in the past and we need to challenge this as a community by
A letter was shared from Nairn Concerned Residents Group to Stuart Black Head of Planning. This confirmed in response to a Freedom of Information request to HC in August) that 2013 guidance currently applies to Lochloy with contributions due from developers of £6497 per home.( at todays prices)
New 2018 Highland DC guidance will require contributions of over £8000 per home for infrastructure including schools and community facilities Once this is adopted the landowner not the developer will be responsible for payment of DCs. There are concerns that this could have major implications for developments on Common Good Land if Highland Council try to take the funds from Nairn's Common Good Fund rather than have them paid by the developer ( since Nairn CG Fund owns the land not Highland Council) This could mean the town may not benefit from sale of CG land-as large sums of DCs would be owed to Highland Council with no guarantee of them being reinvested locally infrastructure based on recent track record. This could be seen as a form of 'asset stripping' of CG funds which are supposed to be used for the benefit of Nairn
Re 3 acres of land set aside for a school at Lochloy -it is not clear why this was relinquished by HC to Springfield at end 2014 or who took the decision. LM has found no evidence of any Education or other committee agreeing to this and no audit trail.
This land was valued at £1.03 m 2008 (the Jack era). At the time this cost was subtracted from DCs as intended for a school -but now that the land is being used by developer to build more housing where is the money ? Also why did THC change the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan without consulting Nairn people ?
The £271,000 DC’s recorded in HC account falls far short of what should be expected for 700 + houses already built at Lochloy. Since 2013 DC guidance was published 178 Lochloy homes were consented in 2014 representing around £1 million in DCs and now 115 more homes are to be built at Kingsteps.
DC’s for the hundreds of houses built pre 2014 are not accounted for on the FO since nothing recorded as collected pre 2011 ( the date when the John A Jack company went out of business) Springfield inherited liabilities for unpaid DC’s in 2012 along with consent for 90 homes from a newly registered company called Kylauren( also owned by Jack)
So where is the money? Nairn seems to have lost out on millions of pounds of Developer Contributions which the town could do with.
LM referred to the recent Highland Council Internal Audit on Developer Contributions June 2018 where Planners said they had been ‘too busy’ to track DC’s For this auditors reviewed 3 sample projects ( given to them by Planners) None were from Nairn. The report records admission of a lack of administrative oversight, by HC but the only outcome was a decision to appoint a Developer Contributions Officer going forward. No other actions were agreed to resolve historic shortfalls.
We need more clarity on current developer contributions - where they come from, what they are spent on, and a proper audit trail for Nairn. Under the new set up a developer can pay DCs twice per year(instead of at end of building phase) but who is going to track and enforce that?
Iain Bruce suggested we invite the audit committee Chair to CC to discuss the matter . LM is sending a further FOI to cover 2 questions which were not answered satisfactorily , and will also write to Highlands Chief Auditor
With such large sums missing this may also be a matter for Audit Scotland to investigate
Priority Action agreed for NRCC was a letter to Cllr Saggers ( who serves on Audit committee )to seek greater clarity on the £271 OOO of DCs declared to date on the FOI spreadsheet What are amounts listed for? What has been drawn down in past and what is still due from developers?
Letter to be sent to Chief Auditor/HC
and Cllr Saggers to request clarification of Developer Contributions historic position for Lochloy/Kingsteps and locate missing funds for Nairn
Check legal ownership of Sandown whether title in name of Nairn CGFund or Highland Council
Nairn Common Good Fund/Assets - are they working for Nairn? These assets are in stewardship of Highland Council to be used solely for the benefit of the people of Nairn
The annual report and 2018/19 budget for Nairn Common Good Fund was noted as were currently proposed developments being pushed forward by HC on Common Good land ( such as Links Development and proposed Parking Charges for Nairn and possible Sandown Lands development) which would affect use of and income generation from Common Good Assets
It was agreed we need greater transparency and local control /decision making on management of Nairn CG assets
LM reported on recent FOI request re Sandown Common Good 10 September asking a range of questions of THC and local Cllers as CG Trustees for Nairn about HC’s intentions in proposed review of Sandown.
Cllr Heggie has said that making such a response is too difficult/complex for Cllrs so he has passed to the Chief Executive to answer within 20 working days. (still no response by end Oct)
LM also noted a response to her request to raise questions about Common Good arrangements at committee from David Haas - Inverness City Area Manager -He has said that Council Standing Orders do not permit tabling or answering of such questions Note that David Haas is not a Nairn CG trustee
He has said that Nairnshire Committee -would need to vote on whether to allow Nairn community to take part in decision making process on Common Good . If so we may be allowed to voice opinions on proposals but Nshire Cttee will recommend what goes ahead eg building of houses-...( thus like Parking Charges no genuine public consultation process pre decision is to be allowed) .
IB noted that this is clearly in breach of the Community Empowerment Act and that we need to challenge our elected members as NCG Trustees
A separate letter has been sent to David Haas - to challenge recent unhelpful responses
Concerns also raised that the current Sandown review shows evidence of considerable previous discussion and decision making which excluded the public, and suggests that Nairn is being treated as a suburb of Inverness by Highland Council.
It was also noted that if public information on Nairn Common Good was adequate and transparent in the public domain and our Councillors doing their job effectively as Trustees there would be no need to ask these questions
As 4 members WSCC were present - a joint resolution of the 2 CCs was proposed as follows to highlight current unsatisfactory situation for Nairn illustrated by current mismanagement by HC of Common Good Assets and Developer Contributions
NRCC members wish to note our disappointment at a lack of constructive response to a number of recent Freedom of Information requests raised by Nairn residents and community groups with Highland Council and our elected Councillors on matters important to Nairn. We also note with concern the complete absence of our 4 elected Councillors at tonight's meeting to discuss two significant subjects of concern to Nairn residents - the use and management of Nairn's Common Good Assets and collection of Developer Contributions due for Lochloy
We are also concerned at recent obstructive, unhelpful responses we and local residents have received from some local Council representatives in pursuing these and other topics of local importance to the town.
That along with tonight's total absence of Councillors (without apology in 3 cases) appears to signal a lack of commitment by our local elected members to do the job they were elected to do, namely to listen to and take on board local concerns, to stand up for Nairn and defend the best interests of Nairn people at Highland Council level
We propose to take this matter forward for further discussion with our fellow Nairn residents at the WS CC meeting next Monday 24th and to develop a joint resolution to further raise these serious concerns with our elected members , Highland Council and ScotGovt /Audit Scotland if necessary
Brief discussion followed on alternative models for local governance of CG assets - Steven Bain asked if Trustees could be local people nominated to look after Nairn’s interests Concern raised that current Trustees ( our Councillors) are nominal and not legally recognised. It is far from satisfactory that the whole of Highland Council can vote on Nairn interests with the town having only 4 from 72 votes
It was noted that other places in Scotland eg Borders Council have established local Common Good Charitable trusts with local trustees who have legal status . It was also noted that ( Inverness City Common Good fund works very differently from Nairn’s and more like a charitable trust - managed by a board of local trustees and giving funds to local community ventures.
HC’s continued failure to publish Nairn’s updated CG Asset Register was queried again. Legally this should be in public domain, and surely nothing new can be planned for Nairn’s CG assets till Nairn public are fully consulted and have proper decision making powers in management of locally owned CG assets.
It was also agreed that despite not being on ‘our patch’, use of Sandown Common Good land was relevant to NRCC as Nairn Common Good assets were for benefit of all people of Nairn
AOCB and questions from public
Members to complete CC scheme survey and share key points of concern with Secretary
Meeting ended at 9 30 pm
Nairn Community and Arts Centre 7pm Wed November 21st. No October meeting