Aberdeenshire Council has been accused by government officials of drafting an “ambiguous” enforcement notice in its bid to kick a group of travellers from an unofficial coastal camp.
The local authority had issued three orders to the residents of North East Park, near St Cyrus, in October asking them to quit the site.
However the residents appealed all of them – for the formation of the touring site, a permanent halting site and a bund without planning consent – to the Scottish Government.
Families moved onto the land in September 2013 and have since built a site with electricity, fencing and roads, with a number of caravans in place.
Residents have now submitted a new application to turn it into a permanent fixture, meaning two of the enforcement notices have been put on hold.
In the Scottish Government’s response to the appeal regarding the formation of a bund, it states the local authority had been “ambiguous” in its demands.
The camp is next to the St Cyrus and Kinnaber links, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The government has argued the local authority did not define the boundaries of the SSSI well enough within its enforcement notice.
It adds: “The steps required by the notice are so ambiguous that the owner cannot tell with reasonable certainty what is required to be done to remedy the alleged breach of planning control.
“Therefore, the lack of certainty about the steps to be taken renders the notice defective on its face and, thereby, a nullity. No further action can be taken in respect of this appeal.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s head of planning and building standards, Robert Gray, said: “We acknowledge the reporter’s decision to sist two of the enforcement appeals.
“We also acknowledge that the reporter considered the enforcement notice relating to the bund a nullity due to a lack of clarity of the SSSI boundary and reinstatement works relying on the cooperation of Scottish Natural Heritage.
“The council are reviewing that decision and will be taking further enforcement action in respect of the bund.”
He added the decision “does not affect” its “commitment to resolving the current situation”.
The two further enforcement appeals will be dealt with pending the outcome of the new planning application next year.
There are two separate elements of the camp – a “settled site” featuring 10 permanent plots and a “touring” section with 18 pitches.
Speaking yesterday Alan Seath, spokesman for the North Esk Park community – said: “We always agreed the bund was a nullity and the other two have been sisted.
“They will not be determined until the application is determined and will just depend on when the application and Scottish Government want us to agree a process on the way forward.”
He added that “a lot of work” had gone into the fresh application to address concerns raised by the council.
Mr Seath said: “It is up to our team to fight the case and fight for what we believe in.”