Travellers submit second bid for retrospective planning permission for St Cyrus site

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

Travellers attempting to gain planning permission for an unauthorised site at St Cyrus have a submitted a second planning application.

The latest bid for retrospective planning permission for North Esk Park - built in September 2013 - was lodged at the end of last month.

Aberdeenshire Council had requested further information from the travellers before the planning application could be “validated.”

The details have now been submitted and a new planning application has been received covering the whole site and the bund.

The application is now valid.

Residents James McCallum and William Docherty tried to win retrospective planning permission for a permanent halting and touring site at the park in March.

However, the application was rejected on the grounds that the park was on a flood plain and in a site of special scientific interest.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “Now it is validated the application will go to the councillors for them to look at.

“The public will also have the chance to have their say on the site.”

North East MSP Alex Johnstone recently called the situation “outrageous” and deemed it to be “a complete mockery of the planning system”.

He said: “Retrospective planning permission is absolutely unacceptable in this case because it would simply set a precedent for similar incidents elsewhere.”

“This fresh bid for planning permission strikes me as nothing more than a means of manipulating the system to buy time.”

Responding, Mr Docherty said: “Mr Johnstone MSP describes the current situation as ‘outrageous’. However, the dilemma faced by gypsy/travellers, created by the lack of a network of suitable sites in Aberdeenshire, has forced this ethnic minority group into trying to provide a home for their families.

“What is outrageous is the inability of this country to deliver a network of accessible and acceptable sites to meet the needs of the gypsy/travelling community.

“In Scotland, year after year, the planning system makes provision for new housing through the implementation of the housing land supply for those in the settled community. However, there is failure to meet the needs of the gypsy/travelling community.

“It is this inequality that has led to the development of unauthorised encampments throughout the country as gypsy/travellers attempt to provide a base for travelling, a site from which to operate their businesses and, most importantly, a home for their families.”

In September, Aberdeenshire Council served an enforcement notice on residents of the camp telling them to vacate the site. The travellers appealed the notice to the Scottish Government.

The council spokesman added: “A Reporter from the Scottish Government considering the appeal against the enforcement notices served at the development carried out an accompanied site visit recently, with Aberdeenshire Council officers and the applicants themselves.”

After lodging the latest retrospective planning permission application with the council, an attempt was made to see if the Reporter’s site inspection could be postponed until after the application was considered by the authority.

However, the Reporter decided that a fresh bid to gain planning permission was not sufficient grounds to delay the inspection. This was carried out a couple of weeks ago.

The Reporter’s decision on the validity of the enforcement notice will not be known for several weeks.