Travellers allowed to settle in St Cyrus

North Esk Park
North Esk Park

Travellers have been granted permission to stay and settle at a site in St Cyrus.

Yesterday, Aberdeenshire Councillors considered retrospective planning permission for the North Esk Park site at St Cyrus.

Councillors voted 41-24 in favour of the site, which was built in September 2013.

There was one no vote.

Head of planning, Robert Gray, advised that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) concluded that the park is on a flood plain.

Solicitor Alastair McKee, speaking on behalf of the travellers, highlighted that it was a strategically-important site, which was well managed and tidy.

He stressed that there were no available suitable alternative sites for travellers in the Kincardine and Mearns area.

He spoke on behalf of the residents of the site who have found employment and welcome being part of a community.

He highlighted that the refusal was based on the flood risk, due primarily to the objection from SEPA. He said a robust flood risk assessment had been undertaken on behalf of the applicant and highlighted that the park was a low and medium risk site and should be considered safe for the purposes of the development.

Linda Macpherson spoke on behalf of local residents. She recognised the ongoing need for traveller sites in the area, but said there was no compelling need for the development in a designated coastal zone.

Kathleen Smith spoke about the impact the site has had on her and her family, and also her business, B&B Eskview Farm, which she said had been severely affected by the development.

Councillor William Howatson moved a motion to reject the application. He stated that the force and scale of the water in the River North Esk in December led to residents being evacuated.

He highlighted that Scottish Government policy stated that caravan sites should not be located in areas of high flood risk and that the Kincardine and Means area committee concluded unanimously that the application be rejected.

This was seconded by Councillor George Carr, who highlighted the impact on neighbouring businesses.

Councillor Martin Ford moved that planning permission be granted. He suggested that the reason for the deviation from the local plan was due to the over-riding need for permanent and halting sites in the area. This was seconded by Councillor Sheena Lonchay.

Councillors were advised that, whichever decision councillors came to, the matter would likely be referred to Scottish Government ministers.

If councillors refused the application, the decision could be appealed; if councillors agreed the application it would need to be referred to ministers due to the formal objection by SEPA.