Trav­ellers fear for their health should they be forced to leave

Chil­dren with spe­cial needs and adults with chronic ill­ness will suf­fer if they are put back on the road

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - GRAEME STRA­CHAN gstra­chan@the­courier.co.uk

Trav­eller fam­i­lies have warned of a health time­bomb if they are forced to quit their homes in St Cyrus.

The res­i­dents liv­ing at North Esk Park said chil­dren with spe­cial needs and adults with chronic health prob­lems would be put at risk if they go back on the road.

Rachel McMil­lan, who suf­fers from Crohn’s dis­ease, said her three-year-old daugh­ter, Seren­ity, will lose the health care that has helped im­prove her con­di­tion.

“Liv­ing a set­tled ex­is­tence here at North Esk has been life-chang­ing for us,” she said.

“It’s been won­der­ful to see Seren­ity re­spond to treat­ment and my con­di­tion is now be­ing prop­erly man­aged.

“But ever since the Scot­tish min­is­ters made their de­ci­sion that the site should close we have been liv­ing in fear.”

She said other chil­dren would lose out on the ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices es­tab­lished on the site and some fam­i­lies would lose the homes in which they have in­vested their life sav­ings.

The com­plex ap­peared on farm­land close to the River North Esk in 2013, trig­ger­ing op­po­si­tion from res­i­dents and lead­ing to a lengthy plan­ning bat­tle.

The Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (Sepa) said the site had flooded in 2002, 2012, 2013 and in the af­ter­math of Storm Frank in 2015.

Scot­tish min­is­ters over­turned ret­ro­spec­tive plan­ning per­mis­sion granted by Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil and the Trav­ellers were given un­til July 2018 to leave.

An ac­tion plan has now been put in place by Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil to en­sure com­pli­ance and coun­cil­lors will dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion next week.

On be­half of the res­i­dents, plan­ning con­sul­tant Alan Seath has sent ev­ery coun­cil­lor a let­ter ex­plain­ing the case.

He said: “This site has made such a dif­fer­ence to the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity in Aberdeen­shire. Peo­ple, young and old, are set­tled.

“They have friends, share land with their ex­tended fam­i­lies, with re­la­tion­ships formed as never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.

“This can­not hap­pen to the same de­gree when Trav­ellers are per­ma­nently on the road.”

Mr Seath said the res­i­dents want to avoid the need to va­cate the site and that the is­sue of flood­ing is the most im­por­tant one to re­solve.

Mr Seath said res­i­dents at North Esk have formed a Flood Re­silience Group.

A con­sti­tu­tion has been writ­ten and of­fice-bear­ers ap­pointed.

He added: “This un­prece­dented ini­tia­tive, taken by the Gypsy/Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity, demon­strates a com­mit­ment to work with oth­ers.”

This site has made such a dif­fer­ence to the Trav­el­ling com­mu­nity in Aberdeen­shire. Peo­ple, young and old, are set­tled. ALAN SEATH

Pic­ture: Paul Reid

Rachel McMil­lan, who suf­fers from Crohn’s dis­ease, with her daugh­ter, Seren­ity. Rachel fears that if the site is closed down and she has to start trav­el­ling again, then she may lose the health care that has helped her con­di­tion im­prove.

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