Travellers are finally ordered off illegal site
Four-year battle after field turned into a small village
‘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