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Aberdeenshire Council considers creation of more gypsy traveller pitches as number of illegal camps across region drops

North Esk Park, near St Cyrus.   

Picture by Kami Thomson
North Esk Park, near St Cyrus. Picture by Kami Thomson

New designated sites for gypsy travellers to camp upon could be created in the parts of Aberdeenshire currently offering the least space to the travelling community.

A new five-year plan, looking at how it can create additional provision through either council-run or private camp sites, suggests there’s a need for more plots in Aberdeenshire.

The same report showing the number of illegal traveller camps set up in the north-east has more than halved in three years.

There were 65 unauthorised encampments in the Aberdeenshire area in 2017 and the number has been reducing since then, reaching a low of 21 in 2019.

However, more official sites are required and a draft report on the matter will go before the council’s six area committees in the coming week, with central and south Aberdeenshire likely to be at the forefront of their debates.

The draft report, by the council’s housing strategy and building standards manager Ally Macleod, argues there is already a “high level” of council and private provision in the north of Aberdeenshire therefore “further sites run by the local authority are not considered to be a focus of this strategy”.

However, he suggests more site should be found in central and south Aberdeenshire.

Travellers pitched up outside Ellon Academy in 2016. Picture by KENNY ELRICK

Mr Macleod said: “Given the absence of local authority provision and limited private provision in central Aberdeenshire, this strategy will continue to focus on additional provision in this area.”

It adds: “It is acknowledged that the North Esk site at St Cyrus helps to meet the needs of gypsy travellers in the south of Aberdeenshire. However, there is need in central and south Aberdeenshire that will require to be met through either local authority or private provision.”

The council runs two sites offering 20 pitches at Breenbanks, Banff, all of which were updated in 2019, and 10 at Aikey Brae, near Ellon, which was built as a stopover site in 2018.

Meanwhile there’s 50 more private pitches available, including 14 at Boyndie, seven in Kemney, two in Peterhead, two in New Pitsligo, four at Boddam and 29 at St Cyrus.

In 2016, travellers set up camp at the new Ellon Academy, and a year later more were moved on from an illegal camp near Hazlehead crematorium.

Last year some moved on to the football pitches at Aberdeen Gateway off the A90, causing issues for Cove Youth FC last year, and last week others were moved on from Aberdeen’s Lochside Academy playground.

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