Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to build its first official gypsy camp after decades of “failing” the traveller community.
Controversial proposals to convert a disused quarry at Aikey Brae near Old Deer into the region’s first authorised encampment were approved at a meeting of full council yesterday.
Councillor Allan Hendry, chairman of Aberdeenshire’s gypsy working group, called on his colleagues to finally accept their responsibility to provide for travelling people.
“It’s been an uphill struggle for more than 25 years,” he said. “Aberdeenshire Council leads on many, many things but on this particular issue we have failed to date.”
The project – which was approved by 36 votes to 18 despite fierce local objection – will create a 10-pitch stopover camp at Aikey Brae.
There will be room for 10 caravans and 20 vehicles as well as temporary toilet and shower facilities.
Travellers will be able to stay at the site, wh for up to 28 days at a time and the camp will be managed by a council liaison officer.
Children at the camp will be zoned for Maud School but could also be taught by a visiting teacher.
The decision came after months of public consultation and an impassioned speech from Lynne Tammi[CORR], the director of human rights group Article 12 in Scotland, who said the site would help gypsy women access healthcare.
She said: “There are three pregnant women in roadside camps in Aberdeenshire. Due to the uncertain nature of the camps they are unsure about registering with GPs.
“Gypsy travellers are more likely to suffer miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of a small child.”
There were 61 unauthorised encampments in Aberdeenshire last year, more than in any other region of Scotland.
However local councillors Edie Chapman, Jim Ingram, Lenny Pirie and Norman Smith – who moved a motion to block the planning application – all claimed Aikey Brae is the wrong site for the camp.
Councillor Smith said: “I’m not against the gypsy-traveller community at all – we need to do something to sort this out. But this is a sticking plaster.”
Councillor Ingram, who seconded the motion, said that the proposed facilities were “disappointing” and councillor Pirie called for assurances that local livestock would not be disturbed.
Conservative councillor Mrs Chapman added: “We should be looking at bigger sites if we want to make a difference.”