REPRESENTATIVES from a national caravan organisation are set to visit Stonehaven next week to discuss the possibility of taking over the running of the town’s Queen Elizabeth Caravan Park.
The Caravan Club – billed as Europe’s number one touring organisation and boasting over 375,000 members – will visit the park on April 19 to see the site and discuss possible options of taking over its running with members of the Stonehaven Tourist Group.
The move comes after Aberdeenshire Council backed plans to hand over control of caravan parks across the shire to communities as part of budget cuts.
The issue was discussed at Tuesday night’s Stonehaven and District Community Council meeting, with members appearing to give their general support to the possible take-over.
Aberdeenshire Council wants to have alternative arrangements in place for the running of caravan parks across the region by October this year, otherwise it will look at selling off the assets to a private company.
Kincardine and Mearns area manager Willie Munro said that a warden for the park had been appointed for this year’s summer season which would continue as normal.
He also confirmed that it is the council’s preference that a community group take over the running of the park and it was very unlikely the Queen Elizabeth Caravan Park would have to be put on the market.
There was some confusion amongst members as to how a deal could be brokered with the Caravan Club if it did express an interest in the site, and whether it would be Aberdeenshire Council or a community group which had the power to negotiate the terms, something which Community Council member Allan Sutherland tried to clarify with Mr Munro.
Mr Munro said: “If the Caravan Club is interested then that does present opportunities but you need to make sure that that is set up in a way that some of the income generated in Stonehaven remains in a community enterprise fund which could well be used to fund things like the Tolbooth.
“The council could go straight to the Caravan Club and set up an agreement with them but any money generated from that would remain in council coffers.”
Mr Munro said the council did not want that to happen and that is should be the community who take the lead in making decisions about the park’s future.
Stonehaven councillor Peter Bellarby, who is also the chairman of Stonehaven Town Partnership, said: “The caravan park is a very valuable asset for the town but it could do with some investment. Nothing much has happened there for a considerable number of years. It is an opportunity and I would like to see something going forward with this. This may or may not involved the Caravan Club - we are not discussing a deal at the moment. Let’s see what happens - we must have something that Stonehaven benefits from.”
Community Council chairman David Fleming said that there were plans in the pipeline to carry out some form of public consultation on the issue.