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Travellers make last-gasp bid to stay put at North Esk Park during crunch site visit

North Esk Park.
North Esk Park.

Travellers made a last-gasp plea to stay in an unauthorised Mearns encampment during a crunch visit to decide its fate.

Scottish Government-appointed reporter Michael Shiel carried out a site inspection at St Cyrus on Thursday at the place 10 families have called home since 2013.

Residents told him their lives would be destroyed if they were evicted and they would be forced back on the road to live in a layby.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said development of the unauthorised site at North Esk Park was “inappropriate” and has warned there is a risk to property and lives due to flooding.

The applicants have provided a flood risk and drainage assessment as well as a community resilience plan (CRP) prepared by the Scottish Flood Forum.

North Esk Park.

Site spokesman Alan Seath said the residents are now putting their “trust and faith” in the system and want a quick decision.

He said: “The threat of eviction has been hanging over their head and it is a worry and stress they don’t need.

“The vast majority of the population in St Cyrus have not submitted an objection because they recognise that the residents of North Esk have integrated well into the local community.

“The reporter has a difficult job but we are hoping he will look positively at our case and make sure the Travelling community are not left without a home in St Cyrus.”

Mr Seath said the part of the site that is at risk from flooding can be adequately mitigated to ensure the safety of residents.

A previous flooding incident at the North Esk Park site.

He also highlighted this week’s coastal erosion study from leading researcher Professor Jim Hansom which warned of the “immediate threat” to hundreds of small towns along the coast such as Arbroath, Montrose and St Andrews.

It said a significant number of properties, parts of the Edinburgh to Aberdeen to railway line, and a number of golf courses were particularly vulnerable.

Mr Seath said: “There are parts of Scotland at greater risk than North Esk Park and common sense must prevail.

“The residents of North Esk Park want to keep their home and they will fight tooth and nail to do it.

“The community resilience plan provides a means of managing the flood risk to residents and is a fine example of what others can do throughout the country.”

Aberdeenshire Council approved retrospective planning applications from the Travelling community for almost 20 touring and permanent pitches on June 26, despite an objection from Sepa.

The North Esk Park site has substantially expanded since the first temporary homes appeared without prior authorisation in September 2013.

A previous application, approved by councillors in 2016, was called in by Holyrood when Sepa objected.

Ministers overturned the permission before fresh applications were lodged.

As Sepa has also objected to the new plans, the applications were again referred to ministers.

The Travellers were told after Thursday’s site inspection it is likely the reporter will have enough information to write his report to Scottish Ministers.

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