St Cyrus Travellers are putting their faith in ‘changing attitudes’ saving them from eviction.
The residents at North Esk Park are currently fighting to settle flooding concerns at the centre of a six-year planning battle.
Retrospective planning applications at North Esk Park were called in by Scottish Ministers but planning agent Alan Seath is not giving up hope of a positive outcome.
He has spent the past year working with the Scottish Government which has recently put together a £3 million action plan “to tackle the discrimination and challenges faced by the Gypsy/Traveller community”.
The application is being scrutinised in view of its potential conflict with national policy on flooding, after Aberdeenshire Council approved retrospective applications for almost 20 touring and permanent pitches, despite an objection from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
The Gypsy/Traveller action plan, which has been co-produced with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), will support improvements to accommodation, education, healthcare and access to benefits.
Local authorities will use £2 million of the funding to improve Gypsy/Traveller accommodation and sites, with the remaining funding going towards third sector children’s education projects and health and social care initiatives.
The action plan will focus on tackling “deep-seated inequalities and discrimination experienced by Gypsy/Travellers by addressing the challenges they face”.
Mr Seath said: “This is the last roll of the dice for the residents at North Esk Park.
“We are doing all we can to convince the authorities that the potential impacts of flooding fall within acceptable levels.
“The £3m action plan is a welcome development to drive forward real and lasting change but the general test will be what happens going forward.
“The changing attitudes which are now being shown towards the Gypsy/Traveller community is giving us renewed hope of a positive outcome.
“I would hope that everything we are doing in this country moves towards making sure the Travelling community are not left without a home in St Cyrus.
“It’s a very difficult situation for all parties and everyone wants to work towards the best outcome.”
Improving the Lives of Scotland’s Gypsy/Travellers 2019-2021 is a joint Scottish Government/COSLA action plan, which sets out 33 actions to be taken forward across local and national government.
The actions have been developed with the advice, support and challenge of advocates, activists and members of Gypsy/Traveller communities, as well as being informed by the expertise of those who are responsible for developing and delivering policies and services nationally and locally.
Mr Seath said the action plan was the biggest step forward that he has seen in his 46-year career.
“It’s great to see the stakeholders publicly stating they want to make a difference to the lives of Travellers,” he said.
“Real change is long overdue and we are hoping the first example of this desire to turn words into action will happen at North Esk Park.”