AN expanding travellers’ camp in Stonehaven is causing outrage amongst the town’s residents.
Last week a group of six caravans arrived at Baird Park, along with several other vehicles, and set up camp on the road there. The group has since almost doubled in size, with almost a dozen caravans now stretching along the length of the road, while some have also now spread across the road to the leisure centre carpark.
Locals are unhappy with the encampment, which has been branded an “eyesore”, and reports about the group’s behaviour have been less than favourable, with residents complaining of intimidation, fouling and littering in the area.
Aberdeenshire Council has said that it is currently looking into possible enforcement options with Grampian Police, but the town’s community council has said that there is “a growing feeling of frustration amongst the population of Stonehaven over the situation.”
One resident said: “The encampment at the entrance to Stonehaven is an eyesore and this is only February - we can all imagine what the state of the place is going to be like come the tourist season. “Over the course of the weekend we have seen the first signs of ‘bad neighbouring behaviour’, with a couple of large objects being fly-tipped. These include a large orange gas canister into the Baird Park and a beige colour sofa into the ground which has been allocated for the community allotments.”
He added: “Let’s not forget the intimidation which members of the public encounter when they walk via their homes at the Cowie Mill and Glenury into Stonehaven to the shops and public services in the town or walk to and from the Mineralwell Park to the beach and prom.”
The resident continued: “I have contacted a couple of the local councillors in recent weeks and have suggested to both that a height restricted barrier like the ones at the layby on the Golf Road coming into Stonehaven from the North would solve the problem of travellers with caravans, diggers and lorries even being afforded access onto the road in the first place.
“A bit of joined up thinking by all departments at the council - Roads, Environmental Health and the local councillors - would not go amiss, along with a large dose of common sense which appears to be lacking at all levels of local government these days.”
Another resident, who assisted the local Horizon group in a litter pick at the weekend, said: “In collecting half a dozen refuse sacks of normal litter, we also uplifted a vermin-torn bin bag of freshly used food containers and beer cans from the riverbank adjacent to the encampment, taking care to watch where we trod to avoid fresh human excrement there, some of which was fortuitously well marked by little heaps of white tissue. It seems that the latrine provided to these people at public expense, is not being properly utilised.”
He added: “It seems difficult to convey the message that these disruptive people are not wanted here and that the inability of the authorities to act to remove them, is a relatively modern phenomenon.
“As itinerant ‘tradesmen’ complete with modern and highly expensive plant and trucks, it is difficult to envisage them fitting within any realistic definition of genuine gypsy or traveller.”
Stonehaven and District Community Council chairman David Fleming said: “It is absolutely vital that every member of the public reports every incident where they see unacceptable behaviour of whatever type, whether that is littering, intimidation, fouling etc to the police on 0845 600 5700.
“Without that sort of detailed evidence from the public, the authorities’ hands are restricted. People should include detail such as registration numbers of vehicles. I strongly urge people to report every single incident.”
He added: “Everybody is disgusted with it – we are very disappointed and disgusted that it has occurred so early in the year and that the behaviour of this group of travellers appears to be so unacceptable.
“We have just got to continue putting pressure on the authorities to be much more firm.
“This group have breached the council’s Code of Conduct and as far as I’m concerned, eviction orders should be in front of the sheriff by now.
“On behalf of the settled community, this Community Council strongly urges the authorities to find effective ways of ensuring that either the campers follow the agreed Code of Good Conduct, or they are required to leave the Shire.”
Grampian Police have refused to take action to remove unauthorised encampments in the past due to a policy of a “presumption of non-prosecution” where the issue of trespass is concerned.
Meanwhile Aberdeenshire Council, which is currently undergoing a review of its policies for dealing with illegal encampments, has stated that the lack of authorised halting sites in the Shire means there is no where for the authority to move travellers on to.
Work to install bollards around the green area next to the Open Air Pool is expected to be completed shortly, to ensure that unauthorised encampments cannot stop there.