Councillors set to discuss barrier for Baird Park road as travellers pitch up again

A GROUP of travellers have pitched up on a Stonehaven road, days before councillors are due to take a decision on erecting a barrier at the troublesome spot.

Around 10 caravans arrived in the town at the start of the week and set up camp on the road running alongside Baird Park, which has already played host to several unauthorised encampments this year, causing anger amongst local residents.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said officers had visited the site and the authority would be continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that the group complied with the local authority’s Good Neighbour Code.

It comes just as a report is due to go before councillors on the Kincardine and Mearns area committee on Tuesday, April 26, seeking approval to erect some form of barrier at the road’s entrance in a bid to stop it being used as a de-facto campsite.

Stonehaven and District Community Council chairman David Fleming said he understood a height and width barrier was the preferred option at the group’s meeting last Tuesday: “Having spoken to the roads officer concerned, the barrier will have to be removed to get service vehicles in occasionally but when it is closed it will effectively make sure than the road can only be used by private cars and very small vans.

“Any larger vehicles will be prevented from going down Baird Park road without the express permission from the council.”

After going to area committee there will be a period of statutory and public consultation before any work on installing a barrier can begin, provided councillors give their backing to the project.

Some local residents have reported instances of intimidation, littering and fouling by previous groups of travellers, while the inconvenience such encampments cause to users of Baird Park such as football teams and the allotment association has also been well documented.

Bollards were installed earlier in the year at the green area adjacent to the Open Air Pool, also in a bid to prevent traveller camps on what was termed “public amenity” land.

Kincardine and Mearns area manager Willie Munro said: “There is a report going to the next meeting of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee about stopping up this piece of road. There is a legal process to follow and this includes consultation. “Any measure will affect all users of the road alike, no single sector of the community can be singled out. As this is a public road, installation of height restrictions or indeed any other measure to restrict its use has to be the subject of a statutory process, the council does not have discretion in this respect without following the process.

“It is being progressed however through the proper process.”

In addition, councillors on the Aberdeenshire Council policy and resources committee are expected to approve a revised policy for dealing with gypsy travellers today (Thursday, April 21).

A review was undertaken of the council’s existing policy and included a public consultation exercise.

Members of the council’s area committees, local communities and gypsy travellers were among those consulted as part of the process.

The review was prompted in part by a number of encampment issues in Aberdeenshire last year, as well as the identification of potential new encampment sites in the Proposed Local Development Plan 2011.

If approved, the revised policy would see the removal of restrictions on the length of stay for encampments, as well as the restriction on the number of caravans, currently a maximum of six weeks and eight caravans.

Each encampment will be assessed on its own merits taking account of factors such as the impact on local communities.

It also recommends stricter enforcement of problem encampments, particularly where the council’s Code of Conduct is breached.