The Scottish Government has been accused of washing its hands of the enforcement saga at a Travellers site in St Cyrus.
The planning battle has been going on for five years since the homes originally appeared on farmland close to the River North Esk in 2013.
The Travellers have been given until January 31 2019 to clear the site after Scottish Ministers overturned retrospective planning permission following an investigation by Scottish Government-appointed reporter Rob Huntley.
It has emerged Aberdeenshire Council is expecting a fresh planning application to be lodged ahead of the eviction date, to allow them to stay.
Residents living in the shadow of the site say they remain unconvinced the council would be fully committed to a forceful eviction in any case.
They have raised the matter with Scottish Ministers but were told it is “for the relevant authority to consider what further action to take”.
One resident said: “Why on earth did we go through the whole process?
“Surely the recommendations made by Mr Huntley should be respected?
“If his views are to be ignored then it just means it was another time wasting exercise.
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“This is a site they should be preparing for leaving, rather than expanding their footprint.
“We have realised for quite some time that a forceful eviction is the only way forward.
“This is not easily achieved and needs Aberdeenshire Council to be fully committed to this action. Therein lies a problem.”
The issue reared its head last month when the council was granted an interim interdict after further unauthorised work started on the site to prepare for the arrival of more mobile homes.
North East Scotland Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “It is disappointing the SNP Ministers have washed their hands of a very sensitive situation which they have influenced before.
“I’ve got confidence that the council are doing everything they can to get North Esk Park to comply with the interim interdict.
“Their hands are tied to some extent by the law. The residents of St Cyrus have been very patient because they know that.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “We received information that further development may have taken place on the site at the North Esk end and we are currently investigating the situation to ascertain the facts.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government and the Scottish Ministers have no remit to intervene in such decisions by the planning authority.
“Planning enforcement is the responsibility of the relevant planning authority. It is for the relevant authority to consider what further action to take, and when to take it, where enforcement notices are not complied with.”
After initially refusing permission and instigating enforcement at North Esk Park, Aberdeenshire councillors voted overwhelmingly to grant retrospective permission for the creation of an official halting site in 2016.
However, the application was called in when SEPA objected after revealing the site had flooded in 2002, 2012, 2013 and the aftermath of Storm Frank in 2015.