One less hurdle for St Cyrus Travellers’ site

North Esk Park, St Cyrus
North Esk Park, St Cyrus

The North Esk travellers’ site at St Cyrus has had one hurdle removed from its race to get retrospective planning consent passed.

The site beside the North Esk river has seen much controversy since it sprang up overnight in 2013.

Despite some St Cyrus residents reporting that there have been few problems with the travellers, others are indignant that the site is still there despite having no planning permission.

MSP Alex Johnstone branded the situation as “outrageous” and “having dragged on long enough,’’ adding: ‘‘It has made a complete mockery of the planning system.”

William Docherty, who runs the site, said it was “outrageous that the travelling community was being discriminated against.”

This week, however, case officer Jane Robertson of the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division, pointed out in a letter that the Scottish Government had thrown out an Aberdeenshire Councilenforcement notice demanding an earth bund or mound should be removed from the part of the site that sits in an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because the notice was not clear enough.

There was a lack of detail about what action should be taken to rectify the problem and where exactly the boundary of the SSSI was located.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Planning and Building Standards, Robert Gray, said: “We acknowledge the Reporter’s decision to sist (suspend) two of the Enforcement Appeals, relating to the permanent and temporary sites, pending the outcome of a further planning application recently submitted to the council for the travellers’ site.

“We also acknowledge that the Reporter considered the Enforcement Notice relating to the bund a nullity due to a lack of clarity of the SSSI boundary and reinstatement works relying on the cooperation of Scottish Natural Heritage.

“The council are reviewing that decision and will be taking further enforcement action in respect of the bund.”

A spokesperson for thecouncil added: “The Reporter’s decision on the bund does not affect our commitment to resolving the current situation and it is important to note that the remaining Enforcement Notices concerning the use of the site remain in place.”

Mr Docherty, on hearing the Government’s change of heart, said: “It’s going in the right direction.

‘‘At the end of the day it’ll be for Aberdeenshire Council to decide. I just hope they see sense and realise we are saving taxpayers’ money by putting up our own site.”

Previously, one neighbour had expressed concerns that if the site was granted planning permission, they might not be able to sell their property.

Mr Docherty said: “I would like it to be known that I will pay a fair market price for our neighbour’s propertyif they really want to sell it.”