NRCC letter to Nairnshire re pressure on local infrastructure of new housing developments
Letter from NRCC to Nairnshire Telegraph published Tuesday 31 November 2017
On behalf of Nairn River Community Council, we are very concerned about the misleading way that discussions at our meeting last Wednesday 15 November were reported on the front page of last week’s Nairnshire ( Tues 22 November 2017).
We wish to clarify our consistent support as a body for provision of appropriate housing in Nairn to meet local need. At no point have we ever as an organisation taken a position against provision of social housing for Nairn. We are thus disappointed to see this suggested on your front page.
At last week’s meeting when Cller MacDonald noted the availability of Scottish Government funding for affordable housing, suggesting we were not in favour of this for Nairn, several Community Councillors spoke up to refute that. Our objection to the proposed Forres Road site development (see www.nairnrivercc.org) made clear that what was proposed was not good enough for social housing tenants. We want to see high quality housing design and amenities, and a healthy living environment in line with Scottish Government’s recent Creating Places policy paper which is meant to inform local affordable housing plans.
Our main objections to the Forres Road site plan were
the additional pressure it would add to water, sewerage and traffic infrastructure in the area
multiple health and safety hazards for a site bounded by a railway, radio mast and busy major road,
loss of a key ‘green space’ in the town, contravening aspects of Local Development Plan.
Tree roots and wildlife habitats including badger setts have already been destroyed by 'test drilling' on site without any planning consent yet approved.
With regard to infrastructure overload, we have seen more than 600 new houses built in the Lochloy area in a decade. This has put unsustainable pressure on our ancient sewage pipe network. Despite expanding capacity at our sewage works, pipework is in places, broken, overloaded or otherwise unfit for purpose. Raw sewage mixes with surface water and overflows in rainy weather releasing sewage into our streets and waterways. This is a serious public health risk and bad for tourism, with Nairn’s famous beaches now struggling to pass clean water quality standards.
Building more housing without first sorting supporting infrastructure, will simply add to the pressure, with bigger problems ahead as the climate gets wetter.
Community Councils and other groups have for years been asking Councillors and public agencies to prioritise investment in upgrading supporting infrastructure (water, sewerage and traffic management) before any more large scale housing development gets the green light in Nairn.
Of course we all want Nairn's social housing shortfall to be addressed but it is worthy of note that only a handful of the 600 plus new houses built at Lochloy are classed as 'affordable', and even fewer are 'social housing' for rent.
If Highland Council and our Councillors on the Planning Committee had been effective in their job of implementing the 25% quota of affordable housing recommended by Scottish Government at Lochloy, we could have had up to 150 additional social housing units by now. So where are they? Something has gone badly wrong and has to change. It is part of a Community Council’s job to keep standing up for Nairn’s interests, when our Council or other authorities fall short.
This is why the way in which Liz MacDonald's ‘statement' was presented in last week’s Nairnshire was particularly misleading and divisive.
We do not expect a Councillor to promote large scale housebuilding, without also acknowledging the urgent need for investment in underpinning infrastructure in our town. This is particularly inappropriate from a Councillor with a publicly acknowledged conflict of interest due to her personal involvement in another pending local housing development at Lochloy.
Community Councils play an important role in new local planning structures, as local forums to help citizens and communities to raise local issues and inform priorities for public spending. We are keen to work effectively with our 4 elected Highland Councillors to ensure that there is a strong voice in Inverness speaking up for Nairn interests.
We continue to welcome the public including our Councillors to all our meetings. Not everyone shares the same views but we are all on Nairn's side, with our members giving their time freely to get the best for our town.
We currently have two vacant seats on Nairn River Community Council - if you want to put your name forward there has never been a better time than now....Please contact us via www.nairnrivercc.org
Nairn River Community Council
25 Nov 2017