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Nairn Connects Bid spruces up town ahead of vote

Nairn Connects BID manager Lucy Harding
Nairn Connects Bid manager Lucy Harding. Image: DCT Media/Jason Hedges

Nairn Connects Business Improvement District (Bid) insists its work has resulted in the Highland town’s high street looking “much less run down”.

The Bid is preparing to send out ballots later this year to secure a fresh five-year mandate.

It has outlined plans for its £100,000 budget for The Press and Journal in advance of the July vote, whose results will be announced on August 25.

Nairn relies heavily on tourists who particularly appreciate its vast sandy beaches.

The Bid team, led by manager Lucy Harding, is looking to extend the visitor season outside the traditional summer months.

Nairn High Street
Nairn high street. Image: Jason Hedges/DCT Media.

Ms Harding said: “We handle all inbound tourism information, so we run and liaise with the Highland Tourism Partnership and VisitScotland.

“We have had two films – summer and winter – that are on our You Tube channel and have been used in advertising, social media and shown in VisitScotland iCentres.

“Nairn is a thriving tourism resort. In summer we are full, so our main mission is to extend the tourism season around the year.”

Nairn Connects Bid is working with data company Place Informatics, using customer GPS data on mobile phones, to determine precise visitor numbers.

This will allow it to target its budget more precisely and continue the raft of improvements it says are transforming the town.

Taste of Nairn food demonstrations
Nairn Connects Bid runs Taste of Nairn. Image: DCT Media/Jason Hedges

The Bid, which has a small team of staff based at Nairn Community and Arts Centre on King Street, is paid for by both a yearly levy on businesses and external funding.

Everyone registered for business rates pays the levy, in bands starting at £1,000 by rateable value, and it becomes due on October 1 every year.

Everybody has to pay the levy

It is made pro-rata if a business is taken over part way through the year.

Ms Harding said: Everybody who has a non-domestic ratable value of more than £1,000 pay a levy into the Bid pot, based on a banding system. People with smaller properties pay less.

Most small businesses don’t pay rates, thanks to the Small Businesses Rates Relief Scheme, so this is the only money they pay over and above their rents and utilities.

“If it is only £125 a year, we see it as a small amount that will not make or break a business,” Ms Harding said.

She added: “We do get a little bit of resentment, but less recently. There are always going to be one or two people who just resent the whole thing and don’t want to join in.

“But for me they are not seeing the bigger picture. The whole town has improved as a result of the Bid’s work.

Nairn High Street with cars
Businesses are looking to reduce lorry traffic on Nairn High Street.

Examples of that work include street cleaning, seagull control and providing floral displays in summer. Longer-term projects feature benches, street furniture, maps and signage.

The team also run events throughout the year to entice people to visit Nairn.

These include Taste of Nairn, Wheels of Nairn and the Christmas Extravaganza, which ensures the festive lights are turned on.

Ms Harding said: “I have been in Nairn for three-and-a-half years and seen it improve.

“It looks like a much less run-down place than it used to and the things that were obviously broken have been fixed.”

If you want something done, ask Bid.”

Lucy Harding, manager, Nairn Connects Bid.

She said she was “pretty much full time” with Nairn Connects Bid, which is run by a board of 12 local businesspeople.

One of Nairn shopkeepers’ key gripes for many years has been the need to improve traffic flow in the town, particularly at the bottom of High Street, and reduce the number of lorries coming through.

Ms Harding said: “We are applying for money to hire a consultant… to make sure changes come around properly. If you want something done, ask Bid.

“The main issue affecting Nairn and which gets everyone’s goat is the lack of a bypass.

“The fact we have this massive road running through the middle of our town is the worst thing.

“We would very much like the government to pull its finger out and get the bypass built as soon as possible.”

Jenny Gilruth wearing hard hat
Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth visited Nairn in May. Image: DCT Media/Kami Thomson

She added: “The minster for transport (Jenny Gilruth) came here to speak to us in May – we have been promised there will be progress.

“When will the money actually be on the table so the bulldozers can move in?

“If that issue went away, Nairn would be a much happier place.”

“On behalf of Nairn’s businesses, I am very much around the table that is discussing these kinds of wider issues.

“We get a lot done and have achieved a lot. Our door is always open and we want local businesses to tell us what to do – it is a very democratic organisation.”