Councillors agree new traveller site strategy

Chapelton of Elsick
Chapelton of Elsick

Councillors have agreed a new strategy for the provision of sites for travellers in Aberdeenshire at a meeting at Woodhill House.

Aberdeenshire already has a permanent site at Greenbanks in Banff and the report highlighted the need for more in north, south and central areas.

Four potential sites are highlighted at Chapelton of Elsick, Blackdog, Ellon and Thainstone under the current Local Development Plan in the long-term.

Councillors heard that there is a need for more immediate site provision.

The cost of developing any individual site would be around £100,000 and assessed on a case by case basis.

Director of Communities, Ritchie Johnson, said the council was keen to identify areas to complement the existing site at Greenbanks and the one shared with Aberdeen City Council at Clinterty.

He said: “If we do secure well-managed sites, that will benefit the settled community and indigenous travellers themselves,” said Mr Johnson.

Councillor Karen Clark said: “I hope this report demonstrates how we are committed to meeting the needs of this ethnic minority group.”

She added that it allowed the council to take a ‘strategic’ rather than an ‘ad hoc’ approach to site provision.

“If sites are effectively developed and managed, it’s hoped issues surrounding unauthorised camps will be reduced,” she said.

It was pointed out that setting up approved sites would make it easier for users to access education, health and social work services.

The strategy was ‘warmly welcomed’ by Cllr Hamish Vernal, who said: “It won’t make decisions any easier but, in terms of how we approach it, it is absolutely necessary.”

Following the meeting, leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Councillor Jim Gifford, said: “The council must strike the right balance between meeting the needs of the settled community and those of Gypsy/travellers and provide the right solution in consultation with all concerned.

“I know that communities across Aberdeenshire can appreciate that providing suitable support to a mobile population ensures that people are supported to visit our area and respect it too.”