Hasty action from SEPA has been blamed for a drop in residents’ property values on land near St Cyrus Nature Reserve, off the A92 beyond North Esk Bridge.
The travellers’ site that appeared without permission last year under the bridge is illegal; however the reason for the refusal of retrospective planning permission for the site has come as a nasty surprise for the many residents who live along the road leading to the nature reserve.
The plains and dunes at North Esk Bridge and Warburton are stunning, unspoiled and enjoyed by visitors from around the world but now it has been classified as a flood plain by SEPA and therefore unsuitable for construction, despite locals saying there is no previous record of flooding in the area.
This has had a knock-on effect for the owners of Steptoe’s Yard who have had planning permission refused for improvements including a cafe at the yard due to the risk of flooding.
Peter Harrison, the yard owner, said: “I’ve lived at Lower Warburton since 1960 and I’ve never seen a flood there. I used to own a lot of the land at Warburton and in 2003 the worst flood since 1827 saw it stay dry.”
Mr Harrison said a few years ago one neighbour had briefly redirected a stream that leads to the North Esk by opening up the bank but this only temporarily flooded the field where the travellers have now built their park.
He said no other flooding had reached the area, which is well away from the main course of the river.
Mr Harrison is annoyed that his and his neighbours’ premises have now seen a 30 per cent drop in valuation following a hike in insurance premiums in light of the SEPA report.
He is angry that there may have be a hidden agenda for classifying the area as such and was keen to point out that only three months before his cafe permission was turned down, he had been given the green light with a one-in-three-hundred-year flood risk approval report from SEPA.
This was before the travellers set up their site with lighting, and surfaced the whole area.
He had been told there was no risk to his property and planners were moving towards granting permission for the cafe until the new revised report came from SEPA.
Mr Harrison said Aberdeenshire Council is using flooding as an excuse to get the travellers out of the area, he added there was never any trouble from the travellers. The SNH wildlife visitors’ centre next to Steptoe yard is still open for business.
The Review attempted to contact residents of the travellers’ site, but without response.