Travellers shed tears of joy as councillors dramatically voted to allow them to remain on their unauthorised St Cyrus site.
Residents living with the threat of eviction applauded in the Aberdeenshire Council chamber following a six-year battle to legitimise the encampment.
Families from the Travelling community packed the public gallery at Woodhill House as councillors debated the fate of their home by Eskview Farm, close to St Cyrus nature reserve.
The key opponent of the pair of retrospective planning applications was the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa). It said land on which the caravans have been situated since 2013 is unsuitable due to the risk of flooding.
After more than two hours of intense discussion, members voted in favour of the retrospective plans by 46 to 17.
One member of the community, who did not wish to be named, said: “Justice and common sense has prevailed. The need for Travellers’ sites is obviously apparent within Aberdeenshire and the outcome is obviously good, not just for us but for generations of us.
“I have four kids and we now have a home. I’ve invested everything I have into this and to have it finally confirmed that our home will no longer be demolished is fantastic.
“I understand this has upset a lot of people but we are part of the community.We always have been and always will be.”
It is the second time members of the local authority have voted to officially formalise the site, which first appeared by the River North Esk six years ago.
Councillors gave the green light to a previous retroactive application in 2016.
However, the application was called in by the Scottish Government when Sepa objected, 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 last year to clear the site.
The local authority then agreed to extend the deadline by six months before the fresh retrospective applications were lodged.
Because Sepa has also objected to the new plans, the applications must now be referred to Scottish Government ministers once more, who will decide whether to call them in.
North East region Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “I don’t understand the logic of the full council’s decision, against the advice of its own officers.
“But I have asked for more information and possible next steps for St Cyrus residents.
“This battle has blighted the lives of its people for the best part of a decade,” he added.