“No cherry picking will be tolerated” – St Cyrus residents warning to council after latest Travellers site drama

© DC Thomson
North Esk Park.

An objector who has been at the heart of the local battle against the St Cyrus Travellers development has told Aberdeenshire Council “no cherry picking will be tolerated”.

Scottish Ministers overturned retrospective planning permission granted by Aberdeenshire Council in April last year and the Travellers at North Esk Park were given until July 2018 to leave.

It emerged last week a decision to refuse planning permission will not be appealed to the Court of Session but talks are ongoing between North Esk Park residents and Aberdeenshire Council “aimed at finding a way forward” in what has been described as a “complex situation”.

The objector said: “First of all I was delighted to hear that there is to be no appeal.

“This will hopefully mean that Aberdeenshire Council can now implement the recommendations of the Scottish Ministers. No cherry picking will be tolerated.

“I assume there will be a programme in place for clearing the site and future works to restore the field to its original state.

“Aberdeenshire Council ignored local people’s concerns in the summer of 2013 – let us hope they are more attentive now.”

The Montrose-based businessman behind North Esk Park has also announced he is “reluctantly” severing his links with the development which appeared on farmland close to the River North Esk almost exactly four years ago, triggering opposition from local residents and leading to a lengthy planning battle.

William McDonald, who owns and operates the five-star Monarch of the Glen residential site in Montrose and has applied for planning permission for a luxury holiday park at a former piggery at Luthermuir, has decided to hand over the reins after stating that the controversy surrounding the site is affecting the credibility of his other businesses.

Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East region Liam Kerr said: “The people of St Cyrus will be heartened by any indication that the protracted battle to resolve this issue is going to end.

“I am confident Aberdeenshire Council will handle any enforcement action with utmost sensitivity. The needs of the St Cyrus community must be respected.

“I know the local authority is looking to expand its number of Traveller sites. This would guard against the creation of any more unauthorised development. I offer any assistance necessary to get the best solution for the community.”

More than 50% of the site is privately owned by the residents who live there.

The rest – the touring site – is now controlled by J Docherty Properties.

After initially refusing permission and instigating enforcement, Aberdeenshire councillors then voted overwhelmingly in favour of granting permission for the creation of an official halting and touring site in April last year.

The application was called in after Sepa confirmed the site had flooded in 2002, 2012, 2013 and in the aftermath of Storm Frank on December 30 2015, when residents had to leave their caravans because of rising water levels.

Scottish Government-appointed reporter Rob Huntley carried out an inspection in December but his “heavy workload” and “full caseload” was blamed for the lengthy delay in completing his report which finally dropped on the desk of Scottish Ministers eight months later.

Scottish ministers agreed with Mr Huntley’s conclusions and refused retrospective planning permission in September with Travellers given until July to get off the site.