The ball is rolling on plans to create a controversial north-east traveller’s site – despite concerns the council is “investing tax payer’s money in the wrong area”.
A full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council yesterday agreed to progress with a planning application for a stopover site at Aikey Brae, near Old Deer.
The plans were first tabled two years ago but were shelved following a backlash from residents.
Yesterday Central Buchan SNP councillor, Jim Ingram, said: “I question whether we are putting the investment of near enough a quarter of a million pounds into a site that (for) all intents and purpose doesn’t stack up against the current needs.
“We are in danger of investing tax payer’s money in the wrong area that doesn’t satisfy the needs of the travellers themselves.”
Fellow councillor for Old Deer, Aligned Independent Norman Smith, said: “I have no issue about traveller’s sites. Aikey Brae will not work, people won’t travel from Inverurie or Dunecht to Aikey Brae.”
He added travellers only began stopping at the proposed site once the quarry there was left unused.
However, East Garioch councillor, Martin Ford, won some support for a call to progress the Aikey Brae site through a Certificate of Lawfulness of an Existing Use or Development (Cleud) rather than a planning application.
He argued the council may look “discriminatory” by not doing so.
The Democratic Independent and Green Group member said: “In this you get a site that has been used for a very long time as a halting site.
“A lot of us in this chamber will live in housing nobody ever gave planning permission to. If we required a Cleud for that house we would get it.
“A traveller’s site shouldn’t be treated any differently. We should treat travellers just the same as anybody else. If we raised the bar higher with a planning application we are arguably discriminatory.”
However the chairman of the council’s gypsy-traveller sub-committee, SNP Allan Hendry, said it may be hard to prove the site had been in constant use as a traveller’s site in order to progress the Cleud.
He said: “We have a duty to meet the accommodation needs of ethnic minority groups. Without site provision the issue of unauthorised sites is going to continue.”
Mr Ingram proposed an amendment to find an alternative site that was “more suitable” but was beaten by a second one from Mr Ford to support the site as a Clued.
Mr Hendry’s motion to agree the recommendations of the report was backed by 41 votes to seven.