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Community launches legal challenge to controversial traveller camp deal

Old Deer residents protested  Aikey Brae as a site for travellers.
Old Deer residents protested Aikey Brae as a site for travellers.

Neighbours of a site earmarked as a controversial traveller stopover site are to launch a legal challenge to the proposal.

Last month Aberdeenshire Council voted to create its first official gypsy camp after decades of “failing” the traveller community.

The plans to convert the disused quarry at Aikey Brae into the region’s first authorised site were backed by a majority vote.

But the project sparked fierce objections from residents of nearby Old Deer. Concerns were raised about the lack of public facilities in the area, the dangers of allowing children to live near a busy road and the impact on a historically significant site.

Now the local community council has agreed to seek a “judicial review” of the decision. A letter of intent has been sent to the authority’s chief executive Jim Savege and an online fundraising drive to pay for legal costs has begun.

A spokesman for the Aikey Action Group said: “Aikey is the soft option. Nobody wants the travellers in their area and they have used the fact that Aikey was once used by gypsy travellers during the Aikey Fair.

“But this should not have set any precedent given the behaviour of some of the more recent occupants of the site.”

The group has raised fresh concerns that if the 10 pitch site is full and other traveller families arrive they may set up illegal encampments near the village.

Last year there were 61 illegal encampments in Aberdeenshire, more than in any other council area in Scotland.

The spokesman said the success of a site at St Cyrus, which was developed privately by travellers, shows there are other avenues for the council to follow.

He added: “Aberdeenshire Council was the applicant, Aberdeenshire Council approved the application. How can this be allowed?”

The Just Giving fundraising page has already received £640 of a £5,000 target.

Last night an Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman confirmed Mr Savege has received a letter notifying him of a possible judicial challenge but said the authority could not comment on legal proceedings which have yet to begin.

During an impassioned debate at Woodhill House on March 9 councillor Allan Hendry, chairman of the gypsy working group, called on colleagues to finally accept their responsibility to provide for the travelling community.

Lynne Tammi, director of human rights group Article 12 in Scotland, added that the lack of an authorised camp in the north-east meant pregnant women were left living on roadsides without access to healthcare.

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