Number of concerns raised over traveller site

Members of the public expressed their views on the  caravan park near St Cyrus. Photo by Andy Thompson Photography.
Members of the public expressed their views on the caravan park near St Cyrus. Photo by Andy Thompson Photography.

A number of concerns were raised at the St Cyrus Community Council meeting with regard to a travellers’ site near a nature reserve.

More than 40 villagers attended a community council meeting in the St Cyrus village hall last Tuesday where they made their feelings clear on the situation which is currently developing in the area.

Building work started on a private plot of land at Nether Warburton near St Cyrus just over three weeks ago after a number of caravans and construction equipment appeared on the site.

Within only a few days, the land at the site was levelled and the foundations of a new caravan site were laid.

All of the work took place without any planning permission from Aberdeenshire Council and the local authority only became aware of the situation after receiving calls from concerned residents.

The council placed a temporary stop notice on the works and applied to the Stonehaven Sheriff Court for an interim interdict.

Since this, an application for planning permission to build a 10-stance caravan park as a permanent halt for gypsy/travellers has been submitted to the council by a Mr James McCallum, and others, but the local authority confirmed at the meeting that it believed the notice to stop work had been breached and the occupiers of the land could face legal or police action.

Members of the public who attended the meeting raised their concerns over potential issues over the caravan park which could affect flooding, road access, tourism and the environment at the plot of land, where the bank behind it is also a designated ‘Site of Special Scientific interest’.

The community council’s temporary chairman, Mr Chris Wark, asked for a vote of members to gain an indication of the group’s stance on the application towards the end of the meeting.

One member of the public at the meeting, who did not wish to be named, said: “Last year there were landslides from the bridge all the way to the road down the bank.

“That creates a health and safety risk for the people on that site and the building works will compromise the cliff face.

“The main problem is where this site is, not who is on it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s you or me building the caravan site on it - it’s a bad idea.

Five out of seven members present voted to object the plans, with two registering no vote.

You can view the planning application by logging on to the Aberdeenshire Council’s planning website and entering the reference number APP/2013/3099.

Local MSP Nigel Don commenting on the situation at St Cyrus agreed that is essential that the law be respected with the caravan site and spoke of how there has been a “steady erosion” of acceptable sites for gypsy travellers.

He told the Montrose Review: “As the local MSP I represent all parties in any dispute concerning my constituents. Planning matters rest with councillors as parliamentarians have no part to play in the planning process.

“I would say, however, that regardless of the merits of anyone’s case, it is essential that the law is respected and I trust that the parties involved will find ways of addressing the issues in a respectful and sensible fashion.

“There has been a steady erosion of acceptable sites for gypsy travellers over the past decade or two and they have real difficulty in finding places to stay. The council does have a duty to provide halting sites but councillors have failed to carry out this duty. I shall be meeting folk involved very soon to see what I can do to help the resolution of this dispute.”