Trav­ellers are fi­nally or­dered off il­le­gal site

Four-year bat­tle af­ter field turned into a small vil­lage

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Peter McGlone

‘This has been a liv­ing night­mare’

TRAV­ELLERS have fi­nally been or­dered to quit an il­le­gal de­vel­op­ment af­ter a four-year bat­tle.

The first car­a­van pulled into a farmer’s field fol­lowed by earth mov­ing equip­ment in 2013, to the hor­ror of lo­cals.

A small vil­lage then de­vel­oped as roads were laid and street lights and ser­vices in­stalled.

The site even­tu­ally be­came home to around 100 trav­ellers, with 14 chil­dren at­tend­ing lo­cal schools.

But yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing years of plan­ning rows, Scot­tish min­is­ters said the site must go and or­dered that it be cleared by next July.

North East Con­ser­va­tive MSP Liam Kerr said: ‘This is great news and vin­di­ca­tion for what has been a long-run­ning and tire­less cam­paign by lo­cal res­i­dents.

‘Ques­tions must surely be asked as to how the site was per­mit­ted to re­main all this time, de­spite the clear dif­fi­cul­ties pre­sented.’

In Septem­ber 2013, Kath and Garry Smith heard the deafen­ing sound of in­dus­trial earth-mov­ing equip­ment out­side their farm­house at North Esk Park near St Cyrus in Kin­car­di­neshire.

Bull­doz­ers had moved in overnight and were turn­ing the field next door into a build­ing site.

It was only later they dis­cov­ered trav­ellers act­ing with­out plan­ning con­sent were in­tent on turn­ing a strip of newly ac­quired land into a site for up to 60 fam­i­lies.

What was a farmer’s field back­ing on to a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est be­came a vil­lage with tarred roads, light­ing and neat walls mark­ing off the plots for rows of car­a­vans.

Speak­ing to the Scot­tish Daily Mail last year, Mr Smith, 53, said: ‘This has been a liv­ing night­mare. We have watched help­less as the field has turned into a small vil­lage.

‘Any­one can see it shouldn’t be there. It’s just not suit­able and no one seems will­ing or able to do any­thing about it.’

A lengthy le­gal and plan­ning bat­tle en­sued be­tween the travel- ling com­mu­nity on the site and lo­cal ob­jec­tors.

An in­terim in­ter­dict against fur­ther de­vel­op­ment was granted to Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil but the site con­tin­ued to grow.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for ret­ro­spec­tive plan­ning per­mis­sion were lodged with the coun­cil, which ini­tially turned them down.

The site is ad­ja­cent to St Cyrus Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve and the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (SEPA) for­mally ob­jected to the de­vel­op­ment as it was on a recog­nised flood plain.

How­ever, af­ter the trav­ellers sub­mit­ted an emer­gency flood plan to Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil, ret­ro­spec­tive plan­ning per­mis­sion was granted in April 2016.

The de­ci­sion was called in by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment af­ter SEPA con­firmed the site had flooded four times in 13 years.

Fol­low­ing a site in­spec­tion and re­port by gov­ern­ment-ap­pointed re­porter Rob Huntley, Scot­tish min­is­ters over­turned the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion.

They said they agreed with Mr Huntley’s find­ings.

Yes­ter­day, one lo­cal said: ‘I feel sorry for the trav­ellers who have made their homes on this site. They de­serve a place to halt.

‘But I have no sym­pa­thy for the mil­lion­aire busi­ness­men who have poured money into this de­vel­op­ment with­out any thought for the well-be­ing of this com­mu­nity.’

Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil leader Jim Gif­ford said: ‘We now need to take time to fully con­sider the de­ci­sion so we can plan an ap­pro­pri­ate way for­ward.’

BUILD­ING SITE Con­struc­tion work un­der way on the site just yards from the ru­ral home be­long­ing to the Smiths

MOV­ING IN The first car­a­vans ap­peared af­ter the field had been cleared by bull­doz­ers

FILL­ING UP Roads and street light­ing were in­stalled as more and more fam­i­lies moved in

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