A CONSPIRACY theory in Nairn suggests delays in the town’s ambitions to establish a Business Improvement District (Bid) initiative were intentionally hampered by Highland Council chiefs.
Retired GP Alastair Noble, a respected voice in the community, has accused the local authority’s budget leaders of purposely slowing the process because of a previous pledge that parking charges would not be introduced there until at least five years after a local Bid scheme was in place.
The spectre of Nairn parking charges surfaced, however, as part of budget proposals. And they were agreed by the council last month.
Dr Noble has aired his frustration about the delay in signing off essential Bid paperwork in talks with community councillors.
The document is required to allow businesses the opportunity to vote on whether to establish a Bid scheme.
Dr Noble said: "One of the things that really annoyed me is that they’ve had the document for roughly four months and quite clearly said there would be no parking charges in Nairn for the five years that the Bid would be in existence.
"I can only assume that some of the delay in signing off that document was because people knew there were going to be parking charges, or an attempt to bring in parking charges.
"It’s very frustrating. There’s absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that parking charges and restrictions on toilets and charging for toilets is going to tear the heart out of the centre of Nairn and that cannot be in Nairnshire’s good. It cannot be in the council’s good. It can’t be in the Scottish Government’s good and it certainly can’t be in the Westminster government’s good.
"So we really have to decide what we’re doing about all of this and try and come up with a better way of working together."
A spokeswoman for the council said: "Nairnshire councillors have expressed encouragement for the Bid proposal.
"The council are working proactively to support the Bid steering group in their efforts to meet the deadlines set in their timetable."
Local councillors are continuing their efforts to block the introduction of parking charges in Nairn that already apply to towns elsewhere in the region.
Michael Boylan, chairman of the Association of Nairn Businesses and head of the Bid process locally, said: "I’d hope our councillors will look to ensure there’s a full consultation process put in place by Highland Council, as there should have been in the first place.
"Unfortunately, it’s obvious the council budget process was, at best, rushed resulting in no consultation."
Fears surfaced in February that some Nairn retailers would probably go to the wall as a result of the introduction of the town’s first parking charges.
And there was anger that the town’s four ward councillors made no effort to force the issue to a vote during Thursday’s council budget debate.
A packed public meeting shortly before the council’s budget debate got a unanimous show of hands opposing parking charges.
A few hours before that public meeting, community councillor Bill Young lodged a legal document with the local authority alleging it was in breach of community empowerment legislation because the local authority failed to consult first.