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North-east councillors get behind plans for travellers site

Travellers at Aikey Brae
Travellers at Aikey Brae

North-east councillors have paved the way for the creation of a controversial new travellers site near a north-east village.

And the local authority has been urged to look to the recently-approved North Esk Park encampment near St Cyrus as a model for future stopover areas.

The council’s gypsy-traveller sub-committee agreed yesterday to draw-up a planning application for a “two-week, short-term” halting site at Aikey Brae near Old Deer.

Members also backed a commitment to “immediate site provision” for travellers in the region.

Local authority plans for sites at Ellon, Thainstone and Laurencekirk have all been discarded, and two others planned for Blackdog and Chapelton of Elsick may not take shape for years.

Proposals to formally open Aikey Brae to travellers were announced in 2014, but a backlash from locals forced the council to shelve the scheme.

The halting site would cost £351,342.

Chairman of the committee, Allan Hendry, said members had no choice but to back the proposals, and added the local authority must keep searching for other possible locations.

He said that authorised encampments were the only way to help police deal with unofficial ones in the region.

Mr Hendry, who is SNP councillor for Mid-Formartine, said: “It is an ongoing search for halting sites throughout the whole of Aberdeenshire. It is not easy.

“We have tried and look how long we have been at it, even before this committee was formed.

“We have got to find somewhere for them to go. We can’t keep chasing them about. We have got to find more sites.”

Recently the council agreed to authorise North Esk Park at St Cyrus, which was established without planning permission in 2013.

Mearns councillor George Carr called for North Esk Park to be taken into account by the council when considering future sites.

The Conservative said: “I think at St Cyrus there has been evidence of fairly good practice.

“I just wondered if we have had much feedback from the gypsy-traveller community themselves on whether they have been interested in taking a more proactive role on the (Aikey Brae) site or various options along those lines?

“If you look at St Cyrus a lot of money has been spent there, there may be someone there who is willing to invest. We need to be looking at different options.”

Council minority ethnic communities officer, Moyra Stephen, said: “It (Aikey Brae) would be open six months of the year to keep with the travellers’ season. Allocations would be on a first come, first served basis.”

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