Highland wide Local Development Plan

One of the most important documents out for discussion at present is the Highland wide Local Development Plan. In it, Highland Council set out their stall, clearly stating their preferred options for development. The Scottish Government has made certain assumptions and predictions about population growth and Highland Council is tasked with delivering a new infrastructure and extensive new housing developments.

The public is invited to make its views known by the 9th November. A meeting will be held in Nairn on the 2nd Oct for open discussion. Let’s be clear. If these plans go forward it will bring about one of the biggest changes to the Highland way of life since the Clearances, especially around the Inner Moray Firth.



The expansion of Nairn is an important element of the A96 Corridor Framework. The development of these growth areas are closely tied in to the provision of a much needed bypass of the town. The phasing of development in Nairn will be important. Some land is identified in the current Nairnshire Local Plan for housing development at Lochloy and Sandown, and these are still considered to be the priority areas for development. The land identified for future growth to the west and south of Nairn can however also contribute to meeting housing demand in the area, and this will have to happen in a way which delivers the community facilities and services that Nairn will need in the future. We are working with Transport Scotland on the delivery of the Nairn by-pass, although its delivery is likely to be some years away. It is important that the future development sites in Nairn contribute towards the ultimate delivery of the by-pass.

Download the full pdf document here

I am concerned about some of the assumptions being made for population growth and the use of phrases like “meeting housing demand in the area”. Further, it seems that only through the provision of extensive housing can the bypass be delivered. Is that a reasonable trade-off? The proposals look like turning the Inner Moray Firth into another Central belt. Don’t know about you, but that’s not why I moved here. Above all, the Development Plan takes little account of tourism, a key local industry. That said, it’s a well written document that clearly sets out the options. We have been given the chance to contribute to these plans for the future of Nairn. Please make time to do so.

6 comments for “Highland wide Local Development Plan

  1. admin
    September 18, 2009 at 9:04 am

    “I was at the meeting last week of the Nairn Ward Forum when we had a presentation by Highland Council about the development of the A96 Nairn corridor. I do object very strongly on this because if the lands west of Nairn at Delnies are built on – looks as that will go ahead – then, next stop – we are very close to Gollanfield at Drumine where the Tornagrain development will start, that in turn will be almost next door to Tesco and Balloch – so in other words Nairn will be a suburb of Inverness city within in the next few years?

    If we look east, Lochloy has expanded. We may, hopefully, get a good quality supermarket on the eastern edge of town. However, as Auldearn is also expanding rapidly – and Forres is just up the hill – so what are we left with? A huge conurbation between Inverness and Forres!

    By all means, yes to development, but improve what we have already got to make Nairn a better place with character and individuality in which to live and for tourists to visit. Develop what is here and keep the individuality of Nairn. Why does it have to change with all these “new people” about to descend? We are big enough as it is! Where are they all going to work? What industry is there for them? Tourism – again?

    When I am do my self drive itineraries for my American clients, I ask if they want to stay in the city of Inverness or in Nairn which is nearby, a lot smaller and by the sea. Guess what – they ALL choose Nairn as it is small and quaint! They are sick of cities and want individuality!

    Who “says” we have to have all this development? I was told this was all in “THE PLAN” by a young representative of the council. Whose plan? Why? Who is going to benefit? This will bring in more revenue for councils and the government but why do we have to suffer by having a huge conurbation on our door step? If we do go ahead with all this development, does that mean that we will perhaps be given a Nairn bypass and only then? Is this the carrot dangling?

    Hampstead in London used to be a little village near London but now isn’t even at the end of the Northern Line tube station – to name one area of London! Hopefully that will not be Nairn either!

    I, and a lot of others in Nairn, do not want all this unnecessary expansion to our lovely town and area. Improve certainly and develop what needs to be done in the area but we do not want to be swallowed up!

    What we need is for lots of Nairnites to make their voices heard on this issue! You only have until 9th November so don’t leave it too long or one day you’ll wake up to Highland suburbia!

    Marie France

  2. admin
    September 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Here is the first salvo from the NRCG with regard to the HwLDP. The Group is currently working on a comprehensive response. An an initial draft powerpoint presentation has already been given by the NRCG to the Nairn Suburban and West Community Councils. It is the Group’s intention to finalise this and make it available to the general public shortly.

    The aspirational population set out for Nairn is 9700 with 4629 houses (these figures exclude the Whiteness development of 1950 houses and accompanying population) are ludicrous. Even using the High Migration figures set out by the Registrar General of 17%, it is impossible to reach the 9700 – in fact the most you can attain is 2500 a considerable shortfall. To reach the 9700 population aspired in the HwLDP by 2031 will require >74% increase in Highland’s population to 375000 – something which is totally unachievable in the timeframe stated. These figures are not mentioned in the HwLDP for the very good reason that Highland Council are attempting to mislead by omission.

    By 2012 Nairn’s elderly population will increase steadily and very soon willl have >35% of its population 65+; it, therefore, seems a catastrophic mistake to build >1500 high density homes (probably 3/4 storeys high) which will not be suitable to elderly people. NHS Highland are not intending to make any changes to their strategic health care plans because they believe the population will only increase marginally – its balance will change – more to the elderly, but not increase in the dramatic way envisaged in the HwLDP. Education has also made similar statements.

    Therefore, if it is unachievable to reach 9700 population increase, thought must be given to where these people will come. The only feasible explanation is by decanting and relocating tenants from Inverness – Merkinch, South Kessock etc. areas which, according to the Inverness City Vision, will be redeveloped as slick new waterside apartments and hotels.

    No other town in the Highlands has been targetted for such large scale housing development; even the City of Inverness, itself, sees only an increase of 7500 people and 3400 houses

    The outcome for Nairn is that it will become a cast off area for Inverness, with all that that entails. Tourism has been totally neglected in the HwLDP particularly with respect to Nairn, which is seen only as an area for housing development – of big bucks for the property developers and the ‘stack em and rack em’ building philosophy!

    Perhaps the HwLDP should have addressed the issues which affect its current residents – i.e. the state of Nairn Town Centre. Surely by having an attractive Centre, Tourism will flourish, self employed home-working people will come, small businesses will start up and in the end everyone will be happy. However, the real answer is that Highland Council do not have the money to redevelop our Town Centre except through allowing property developers to build houses which will attract A96 protocol contributions to enable infrastructure and town regeneration to be afforded.

    I believe that this inverted way of thinking will create massive problems for Nairn and will destroy the very essence of the unique character of our environment.

    Nairn Residents Concern Group

  3. September 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    “A huge conurbation between Inverness and Forres!”

    Bear that in mind next time you drive from Inverness to Nairn, and you’ll see just how spread out these developments actually are.

    Let’s remember, we’re talking about a 30 mile stretch of road here, and one that even including Inverness – a major Scottish city – is still talking about a residency of around 70,000 people.

    Doesn’t sound like a major conurbation to me. :)

    Concerns about doing this intelligently, preserving and expanding on tourism assets, and keeping out the high rises are positive pointers – but complaints about development for development’s sake just sounds so NIMBY and backwards looking.


  4. September 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Just to quote one part of yet another intelligent response to this plan (posted on the APT blog tonight).
    ‘Considerable attention is focused in the draft report on how to identify substantial amounts of land-for-housing, without clear indications of how this links to employment and economic activity.’
    So there we have it development for development’s sake?
    Did any politician have all this development in their manifesto?
    Can anyone for example identify the point where our democratically elected councillors decided that there should be a new town at Tornagrain? Maybe I missed it?
    Keep reading the APT blog Gurnites to keep up to date with those on this issue.
    PS 30 miles between Nairn and Inverness?;-)

  5. admin
    October 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Herewith another well considered response to the HwDP Main Issues report.

    Highland-wide Local Development Plan – Main Issues Report

    Comments on Nairn-related tourism issues

    General comments

    1. The vision (of balanced, sustainable growth) is reasonable, but the policies and options outlined do not reflect or deliver this vision.

    2. The assumptions about population growth and housing-need are questionable, and the planning should not be based solely on a high-growth/high-migration scenario which is likely to be unrealistic, undesirable, and unsustainable.

    3. The spatial strategy is inconsistent with the objective of balanced growth. The proposed concentration of expansion, growth and development in the Inverness/A96 corridor area is misconceived and undesirable, and the A96 Corridor Framework is not an acceptable or appropriate blueprint.

    4. The linkage between development and the provision of infrastructure should be direct and explicit, and solutions to major infrastructure issues (notably access/transport) should precede, not follow, new development;

    5. There is little analysis of the economic issues (strategic priorities, resources, employment etc) which are fundamental to growth. In particular the report fails to address the significance of tourism. We believe that the plan should take much greater account of the vital role of tourism as a driver of economic activity, a significant employer, a stimulus to investment, an increasing source of revenue, and a sector that requires and is dependent on the sensitive and sustainable management of the unique natural assets of the Highlands.

    6. The draft sets out ambitious goals for urban development and residential expansion. At the same time, it refers at length to the safeguarding and utilisation of existing natural assets and the environment (agriculture/crofting, fishing, tourism, recreation/amenities, and related service industries). There is no recognition of the potential conflict between these land use objectives; indeed there seems to be a presumption in favour of development (eg prime agricultural land can be developed “if essential… for settlement strategy or necessary to meet an established need”). This tension is illustrated by, and is most acute in, the case of the A96 corridor, where development proposals are concentrated in a coastal zone which is one of the most agriculturally-productive, environmentally-important, and tourism-focused parts of the region.

    Inverness and A96 Corridor (pp 7-11)

    7. We do not believe that the A96 Corridor Framework is a suitable or appropriate basis for future planning, since it is predicated on an unacceptably large, and probably unrealistic, expansion in the population of the area. We have grave concerns that the ambition to develop and expand Inverness, as currently proposed, will have a seriously detrimental effect on the surrounding area in general, and will have a particularly damaging impact on the size, character and role of Nairn and the other smaller existing settlements in the vicinity.

    8. The Highlands as a region is in fact more likely to prosper from a balanced development plan which encourages and sustains the growth of sub-regional centres based on appropriate types of economic activity (which are increasingly likely to be focused on leisure, tourism, and service-related sectors as much as capital- or labour- intensive industry or business) . To quote an elected member of Highland Council, “We should not put all our [development] eggs into the one [A96 Corridor] basket”.

    9. The LDP should safeguard the agricultural character, natural environment, historic sites and visual appeal of the A96/Moray Firth area. The purpose of any development should be to enhance these characteristics. If sensitively done, this could well contribute to the overall improvement and prosperity of the region. But to regard this area as primarily a development opportunity which needs to deliver a dramatically increased volume and density of residential housing and commercial/business zones, is to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of development. Such an approach risks resulting in the worst kind of urban sprawl and ribbon development.

    10. In particular, development and housing capacity in Nairn should not be linked to, still less conditional on, progress with development within Inverness. The growth and development of Nairn should reflect the needs of the town as an established settlement with its own hinterland and socio-economic catchment area (which incidentally extends into Moray);

    11. We therefore do not favour the Preferred Option (Q.1), but we support the alternative option (put forward under the A96 Corridor Framework section) of “widening the search for long term expansion to the rest of the Inner Moray Firth”. This would be consistent with the aim of delivering more diverse and balanced development across the region.

    Area Specific issues: Nairn (pp 18-20)

    12. One of the principal conceptual deficiencies in the A96 Corridor Framework is that it treats the development of Nairn almost entirely as ancillary to the vision of a larger Inverness city region, and looks at Nairn essentially as the eastern “terminus” of the so-called A96 Corridor. It makes assumptions and projections, notably on population growth and housing need, which do not arise from an analysis of the future of Nairn as an urban centre in its own right.

    13. The Framework fails to offer any kind of vision for the function of Nairn as either a service centre for its rural hinterland or for its role as a tourist centre and amenity site for the region and indeed for a wider market. The principal recommendation of that Framework is for extensive new high-density residential estates with modest local shopping provision. This will simply turn a once thriving regional tourist town into a dormitory suburb.

    14. We regard the absence of a specific reference to tourism – the principal raison d’etre of Nairn – as a surprising omission both in this section and in the preambular “Vision” section. It merits only a fleeting mention in the section on “Development of Local Centres”. Tourism is a substantial contributor to the economy of the Highlands. But by the same token tourism is very sensitive to changes which affect the environment, the recreational opportunities, the accessibility and the visual attractiveness of the Highlands. Urban (especially residential) development, and the adequacy of infrastructure, have a major effect on the tourism offering. Tourism should therefore feature prominently in any assessment of development options for Nairn, and in the regional plan.

    15. The failure to acknowledge that the A96 goes beyond Auldearn, and the apparent belief that that there is neither need nor opportunity to look, or link, eastwards from the Highland region, is another fundamental flaw in the Framework which has particular implications for Nairn, a town which historically and currently connects eastwards and southwards as well as towards Inverness.

    16. The areas where infrastructure improvements are required are already clearly known. The case for a Nairn bypass is unassailable and has been well-rehearsed. The challenge in the plan is to do more than identify how development proposals “fit with” the bypass proposals, and to establish clear causal connections and consequences. The critical question is timing, and how this is integrated with other aspects of the town’s development. The clear implication is that a bypass is unlikely for some (many?) years. While action to sustain and improve the town clearly cannot be held hostage to the delivery of a bypass, it is equally clear that significant and large scale new developments (particularly residential build which will further increase the burden on existing roads) cannot proceed unrestrained in the absence of committed funding and a firm timetable for a bypass.

    17. We therefore consider that the Preferred Option (Q5) is a curate’s egg. The recognition of the importance of a bypass is welcome, as is the commitment to consult on the mix of development. But in many other respects the Preferred Option is unsatisfactory.
    Environmental issues, and the connection with tourism (pp 44-48)

    18. The natural, built and cultural heritage of the Highlands is arguably THE single most important attribute of the region. In a country where urban growth, industrial development and even large-scale agriculture are changing and obscuring the character and quality of regional and local environments, the Highlands has a unique set of assets which define the region. It should be a primary and overriding objective of the Highland-wide LDP to protect, preserve and enhance this environment in all circumstances – without the caveat of “where possible” (top of p44), which provides an unacceptably large loophole.

    19. Similar arguments apply to wild land (page 47) . The rarity of such wild areas makes it essential that they be protected. This does not only refer to land areas, nor just to housing. As recent cases have illustrated, wild places are under threat also from windfarms (eg Dava Moor) and giant pylons (West Highlands and elsewhere). Coasts, beaches and marine environments are equally deserving of protection for the same reason.

    A Competitive, Sustainable and Adaptable Highland Economy (pages 58-71)

    20. The reference to tourism is cursory and wholly inadequate, given that tourism and related services are among the main sources of income, employment, and revenue in the Highlands. Tourism is not simply about supporting the development of [construction] “projects”. It is about the development of an integrated strategy which recognises that successful tourism depends on protecting and indeed ‘showcasing’ those characteristics of the Highlands which attract visitors. This may indeed mean constraining development (eg in wild places). It may mean giving priority to recreation over industry (eg in use of river basins and in coastal development). It certainly means assessing the impact of any kind of development on the tourism-potential of the site and area concerned. There is a strong argument for developing a “Tourism Impact Assessment” requirement analogous to the current “Environmental Impact Assessment”.

    21. It is surprising that despite the welcome reference to “small scale rural businesses”, there is no mention anywhere of the single most critical resource for such enterprise: telecommunications and IT. In view of the government’s recently published national broadband strategy, the provision of adequate network capacity across the Highlands should be a fundamental development objective. Such infrastructure is vital for the development of distance-working, homeworking, and the high-skills, low-impact, small-scale businesses that should be actively encouraged in a rural region such as the Highlands.

    Coastal Development (page 68)

    22. The Coastal Development Strategy (CDS) is still in draft so the issues for development planning have not been fully identified. But the CDS does highlight the importance of the Highland coastal regions for landscape, tourism and recreation, and notes that development pressure is greatest on the east (Moray Firth) coasts. The HwLDP should echo this assessment, and shape development planning accordingly.

    Forestry and Woodland (pages 69-70)

    23. The importance of forests and woodland is well-explained. The only omission is a reference to using the planning process to enable the increasing use of woodland for recreation, health and well-being (walkways, cycle trails, picnic sites), such as is already being fostered by the Forestry Commission.

    Access to the Outdoors (page 73)

    24. We support the development of core paths and long distance routes and the protection of access rights, both of which are important for residents and visitors. There should be specific mention of cycle routes (the Sustrans initiative) – there is considerable scope for extending such networks. And given the vast extent of Highland coast, a regional access policy should also have as a clear objective – integrated with the CDS and a tourism strategy – the creation of a Coastal Path (cf the Moray Coast Path in Grampian/Moray).

  6. admin
    November 23, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    We are pleased to include the Visit Nairn Tourism Association letter to Highland Council.

    “Having studied the HwDP Main Issues Report, we recognise that a degree of development may well be necessary. The greatest impact of this development will be felt primarily by the residents of Nairn and over the timescale outlined by the plan, the population will double. One main concern of the plan is that is does not appear to address a number of issues that will impact on the existing community. The proposed new development simply cannot be parachuted in without due regard to what is already here. It has to be integrated in such a way as to ensure clear benefits for the town alongside the desire to meet housing targets or developer aspirations. We need to ensure that this plan is not simply developer led. It must be delivered by developers to a specification that is negotiated and agreed with the community.

    Before addressing tourism related issues, the credibility of the Plan has been called into question simply because of the population growth figures that have been used to determine the amount of housing required. To work on the maximum growth does tend to suggest that developers may be the main drivers behind this expansion – even if all the housing is not actually necessary. It is true that certain targets have been laid down by the Scottish Government but these two aspects seem to have come together and, in isolation from other issues, have resulted in suitable land being identified for development.

    It is a known fact that the tourism contributes most to Nairn’s local economy. Across the Highlands as a whole it provides employment for 14,500 people – 13.8% of all jobs*. That excludes numerous B&Bs in the Highlands. UK and overseas visitors spend over £600M a year in the region. Nairn has its fair share of that business – and could probably do even better.

    Given that this is the case, it is astonishing that tourism is barely mentioned in the Main Issues Report. There have been no impact studies on community, jobs or tourism. There are no suggestions as to how we can first, protect the facilities and services we have and secondly, develop or enhance Nairn’s tourism offering. A doubling of the local population will have a marked effect on the character of Nairn and the nature of tourism. If development has to happen, it has to be carefully planned and managed with due consideration to our most important industry.

    So we would like to see proposals about how we successfully integrate the new population with the existing one while still preserving the unique nature of Nairn as a tranquil coastal town. Existing residents can rightly ask how this Plan will enhance their lives and improve their services and facilities. The Plan does not appear to deal with this.

    The new development will impact on Nairn’s attractiveness as a visitor destination one way or another, simply by default. We need to have mechanisms in place to ensure that the impact is managed in a way that not only maintains but improves that attractiveness and quality of life. Left to its own devices it will just become urban sprawl.

    Questions we believe need to be addressed are as follows:

    1) What types of development are envisaged for the town centre in order to make it better for residents and visitors, i.e. improvement of the public realm?

    2) What new life-enhancing benefits and services can the existing population expect as an outcome of this development?

    3) Will developer contributions fund the proposals put forward recently by the Enquiry by Design team?

    4) What guarantees will be put in place to ensure that developers follow-through on commitments to support infrastructure?

    5) What proposals ought to be made to improve Nairn’s existing visitor attractions along with the development of new and sustainable enterprises – art, culture, heritage, accommodation, all-weather facilities, etc?

    6) What plans are there for creating sustainable businesses with opportunities for young people living in the town?

    7) What might we expect to be the social and economic impact of this dramatic increase in population?

    8 ) What steps will be taken to reduce the risk of Nairn becoming a dormitory town?

    *VisitScotland 2008

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *