St Cyrus eviction process “effectively put on hold” despite life and limb risk

© DC ThomsonNorth Esk Park.
North Esk Park.

Enforcement action against Travellers in St Cyrus has been put on hold despite the “continued risk to life and property”.

A pair of planning applications for a 10-stance caravan park and halting site were received in late December 2018 for development at North Esk Park which have now been validated.

A progress report will go before a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on Thursday to provide an update on recent enforcement activity including next steps and alternative sites.

Aberdeenshire councillors voted overwhelmingly to grant retrospective permission for the creation of an official halting site in 2016.

However, the application was called in by the Scottish Government when the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) objected after revealing the site had flooded in 2002, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Scottish ministers overturned the retrospective permission and the Travellers were given until July 31 to clear the site.

The local authority then agreed to extend the deadline by six months and has been involved in “continued dialogue” with the North Esk community.

The Travellers were told by officers the council is not obliged to consider a fresh planning application within two years of the Ministers’ decision unless it is “materially different”.

Director of infrastructure services Stephen Archer said the council was obliged to accept the new application after the plans showed “material changes including the inclusion of additional land in the application site boundary”.

The applications will initially be considered by the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee before determination by full council which could, potentially, happen at the April 25 meeting.

Mr Archer said while the planning applications are being processed, the enforcement process is “effectively put on hold until the conclusion of the application process”.

He said it was recognised that putting the enforcement process on hold will cause “further delay to what has already been a lengthy and drawn out planning process”.

He said: “Such continuing delay causes uncertainty and undermines public confidence in the planning process.

“However, to pursue compliance with the notices while the current application process has still to run its course, when the outcome is unknown, would be premature and potentially costly to the council.

“In reaching a decision on the next steps, the council must weigh up the need to determine the new applications and follow due process in terms of its statutory requirements, with the need to seek compliance with the extant enforcement notices for serious breaches of planning control that have existed since 2013.

“The continued unauthorised occupation of the site brings with it the continued risk to life and property in terms of the flood risk on account of the propensity of the site to flood, as highlighted by the Reporter.

“The need to seek compliance and remove such risk is paramount.”

He said that if the current application process cannot address the risks and no subsequent approval is forthcoming, the council requires to decide if direct action is to be taken.

Aberdeenshire Council was granted an interim interdict to stop any further activity after unauthorised work was carried out at site in September.