An overwhelming majority of those who responded to proposals to commercialize land of common interest in Sandown oppose the move.
After months of consultation, a report on the matter is expected to be considered tomorrow at a meeting of the Highland Council’s Nairnshire Committee.
The report says the move would envision a much more varied and smarter use of land, including the eventual provision of housing, recreation, commerce and community and green spaces as well as wetland conservation.
“Any proceeds from the sale would also provide investment funds for Nairn Common Good and the city,” the report said.
“Providing affordable housing, which is one of the potential benefits of using these lands, would have a positive socio-economic benefit for low-income people in the community. “
There has been strong local opposition to Sandown’s wholesale unloading, including fears it may be sold too cheaply – estimated at £ 22million in 2006, it is currently valued at just £ 7million of pounds sterling.
The report recognizes a risk of volatility in the market as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The process of consultation and legal action (necessary to approve the transfer of a common good) is long and, therefore, the council cannot act quickly to take advantage of short-term improvements in market conditions,” adds he does.
“However, by seeking approval in principle for the divestiture, the board would be able to respond quickly to changing market conditions to ensure the best value for the Nairn Common Good Fund.”
Although the Nairnshire committee will be considering the report this week, they are not being asked to endorse or reject the idea of selling the land at this point.
Instead, the recommendation is that he agrees to allow time for a “full reflection” and assessment of the comments received.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to proceed with the sale will be made by the entire Highland Council.
The committee can make one of three recommendations to the board itself: agree that disposal should take place subject to Sheriff Court approval; suggest that the proposal be modified, any significant modification triggering a new consultation process; reject the sales proposal.
A total of 98 responses were received to the recent consultation, including three in favor of a sale, 10 for and against and 85 against.
Supporters speak of the need for more social housing, with some respondents accusing objectors of nimbyism on the grounds that they don’t want their opinion of Sandown to be spoiled.
They also claim that funds from the sale of the land could help community activities and local charities and create additional tourism, environmental and business opportunities for the local economy.
Opponents say other sites for new housing have not yet been considered and accuse the council of using the site as a cheap option for itself and housing associations.
Fears were also expressed that Nairn would lose control of the proceeds of any sale, although the report strongly refutes any suggestion that the board diverted funds raised in this way for its statutory responsibilities.
• To see the full report of the visit here.
Related article: Decision day around the corner for the key Nairn site – the 38 acres of Sandown farmland on the road to town – on whether or not to market it for housing