An environment watchdog has maintained opposition to an illegally-built Travellers site in St Cyrus and said nothing will change its mind.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has objected to retrospective plans for North Esk Park, which is already heavily developed, before it is considered by Aberdeenshire Council, whose own environmental officers are also against it.
Retrospective plans were lodged for a 10-stance caravan park and halting site in the latest stage of a bitter five-year fight for approval.
SEPA planning manager Jim Mackay said: “We object to this planning application in principle on the grounds of flood risk to people and property.
“We have carefully considered the material submitted with the planning application and consider that the submitted Flood Risk Assessment significantly underestimates flood risk on this site.
“Nevertheless, the Flood Risk Assessment does confirm that the site is at flood risk, albeit we consider the risk has been underestimated.
“We do not consider that any additional information can be provided to alter our position on flood risk at this site.
“The position is thus the same as when the previous application was refused by Scottish Ministers.
“We note that this application will require to be referred to Scottish Ministers if Aberdeenshire Council is minded to approve the application.
“We also object to this planning application on the grounds that the applicant has failed to demonstrate an environmentally acceptable drainage solution.
“However, we would not advise the applicant devote further resources to this given the in-principle objection lodged on flood risk grounds.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s flooding experts have also objected to the plans after land raising on the site increased flood depths on the adjacent public road and farm land to the south.
Engineer David Gander said in the event of flooding the public road would be under half-a-metre of water with no safe access to or from the North Esk Park site.
He said: “We note that a flood resilience and evacuation plan is in place for the development.
“However any site that requires such plans is not suitable for development of this nature.”
Despite a protracted legal battle between the Travellers and Aberdeenshire Council, development on the unauthorised site has continued since the first homes appeared on farmland close to the River North Esk in 2013.
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.
Enforcement action has now been put on hold until the two fresh planning applications, which were received in December, are considered by the Kincardine and Mearns area committee before determination by Aberdeenshire Council.