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Aberdeenshire Council urged to fund further improvements to its gypsy traveller sites to ensure human rights are met

Aikey Brae, while under construction.
Aikey Brae, while under construction.

Traveller sites in Aberdeenshire could be in line for upgrades as councillors agree to push for a share of a £20million pot aimed at improving council-run gypsy accommodation.

New designated sites for the travelling community to camp upon could also be created in central Aberdeenshire too, if funds allow.

It comes as councillors consider a new five-year plan looking at how the local authority  can create additional provision through either council-run or private camp sites.

Aberdeenshire Council’s housing strategy and building standards manager Ally Macleod, told yesterday’s Buchan area committee there is already a “high level” of council and private provision in the north of Aberdeenshire, but more sites should be found, if cash allows, in central Aberdeenshire.

He also suggested improvements should be made to the council’s 20 pitches at Greenbanks, Banff, all of which were updated in 2019, and 10 at Aikey Brae, near Ellon, which was built as a stopover site in 2018, at a cost of £250,000.

Human rights

Mr Macleod said: “The Scottish Government has recently released funding aimed at promoting gypsy/traveller site provision in and around Scotland and that consists of a £20million pot.

“And although that’s aimed at areas where there are gaps, and there are 12 local authority areas in Scotland which do not currently have provision of any local authority-run gypsy traveller accommodation, there may be opportunities to access this fund either for new sites or for enhancing existing accommodation so there may be opportunities there for Aikey Brae.”

A view of North Esk Park, St Cyrus. Picture by Kami Thomson

Central Buchan councillor Anne Simpson called for more investment in the site too, citing literacy and numeracy aids drawn on the tarmac by the council as examples of how the authority can help families there.

She added: “Aikey Brae is a stopover site and I’m not making any demands or whatever to make it more than that…but I do think from a human rights perspective we do need to do quite a lot of upgrading there.

“I think people should have an ability to wash their clothes and wash themselves and so I would be really grateful to see some kind of plan about what can happen next at Aikey Brae should funding become available.”

Illegal sites on the decrease

Mr Macleod agreed he was “quite keen” that the council revisits plans for wider upgrades at Aikey Brae given the “attraction of the additional Scottish Government funding”.

His report, which will go before other committees in the coming weeks too, also showed 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.

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