Council contractors have inadvertently played a key role in helping set up an illegal Travellers’ site in the Mearns.
Tayside Contracts, a firm which provides a number of services to local authorities including Angus Council, has admitted it unwittingly delivered a load of recycled materials to a Travellers’ site near St Cyrus at the centre of a planning dispute and court order.
On hearing the news, a local councillor said the Travellers were “holding two fingers up” to authority over the situation.
The heated debate over the site started in late September when a community of Travellers moved on to a patch of private land near the St Cyrus Nature Reserve and began building work without planning permission from Aberdeenshire Council.
A retrospective application for planning permission to build a 10-stance caravan park was later submitted but the council obtained an interim interdict from Stonehaven Sheriff Court to stop any work which would need planning permission at the site while it dealt with the request.
Objectors claim this appears to have been ignored on several occasions, an allegation which seemed to be borne out after Tayside Contracts’ managing director Iain Waddell admitted his company had delivered goods to the site without prior knowledge of the background.
Mr Waddell said: “We carried out the delivery of a cash sale order for recycled materials through our quarry in Arbroath. The order was for type 1 hardcore and aggregate. We took an order from someone and delivered in good faith.
“We have now stopped any future deliveries to the site.”
Vehicles bearing the names and design of several other local firms were said to have been seen at the site delivering goods over the weekend and despite the interim interdict, unchallenged by the site occupants, more work was carried out.
This included the laying of tarmac walkways, building of walls and garden sheds and the erection of a six-foot perimeter fence.
There are now also an estimated 30 caravans parked on the site and local councillor George Carr admitted the Travellers are doing what they want.
“They are just holding two fingers up to the law,” he said. “They have been held in breach of the interim interdict but it seems they are carrying on regardless.
“The police have a policy of non-harassment and the travellers know national policy on the treatment of ethnic minorities is in their favour.
“They are calling themselves Romany Gypsies but as we all know, that can be an umbrella term for many different groups, some of whom have excellent relations with indigenous communities and some who don’t.
“At the end of the day, their leaders know what they are doing. They are playing the system and playing it well and in many ways, our hands are tied.”
Enraged local residents say if allowed to proceed, the development will set a dangerous precedent and open the floodgates for anybody to ignore planning laws.
“There is no doubt the council has been caught napping here,” said one local, who asked not to be named.
“But if this site is allowed to go ahead, it is simply going to send out the clear message the travellers are above all the laws of the land.”
However, Traveller Duncan Reid, one of the four owners of the site, denied the group posed any threat.
“We have been trying to get a site here for 15 years. We’ve been hounded from pillar to post but at last that is going to end.
“We are going to have a lovely, well-kept site. We are all Christians, good clean-living folk with no wish to cause any trouble. All we want is to have a place where we can stay. What is wrong with that?”