Leading figures behind an unauthorised Travellers’ site on the border of Angus and Aberdeenshire have launched a damning attack on locals who drew a comparison between the development and London’s Grenfell Tower.
As the community of St Cyrus awaits publication of a high level planning report into the North Esk Park site which sprang up in September 2013, residents who last week said the Scottish Government should “learn lessons” from the tower block disaster have been told they should “hang their heads in shame”.
A letter from “concerned residents” was sent to Scottish Ministers describing North Esk Park as a “tragedy in waiting”.
It said: “In light of the devastating and tragic fire in Grenfell Tower, lessons should be learnt, and governments, councils and planners must take serious heed of what experts are telling them and not take the easy or cheaper route.”
Reporter Rob Huntley is in the final stages of compiling a long-awaited report into the site, which was retrospectively approved by Aberdeenshire councillors in April 2016, but subsequently called in by the Scottish Government.
Opponents continued to highlight flooding fears over the site close to the River North Esk but director Bill McDonald and planning consultant Alan Seath slammed the comparison with the London tragedy as “distasteful in the extreme.”
“Using the recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower in a cynical move to grab publicity and support their objection to a planning application is an utterly disgraceful act on the part of those St Cyrus residents involved,” they said in a joint statement.
“They should hang their heads in shame. To suggest that lives will be put at risk is untrue. The simple truth of the matter is that this site has never flooded.
“At the height of the 2015 flood, while the neighbouring field was affected, the site itself remained above water,” they added.
Mr Seath said an interview with the HM Coastguard commander in the aftermath of the 2015 flood had confirmed the entrance to North Esk Park was clear of water and the precautionary evacuation of residents went “smoothly and with no panic.”
Mr McDonald continued: “In their anonymous letter, residents urge Scottish ministers to ‘listen to the experts’.
“We too would urge them to do just that and read the full flood risk assessment carried out by SLR, an international environmental consultancy.
“That assessment concluded that ‘the site does not lie within the functional floodplain and in terms of planning policy it is suitable for its current use as a caravan site’.
“While we appreciate that residents have every right to pursue their case through the legal and democratic process, we find it distasteful in the extreme that they would attempt to use the terrible events at Grenfell Tower to distort the situation and attempt to mislead the Scottish Ministers who are charged with making the final decision,” they added.