ABERDEENSHIRE councillors are being urged to back controversial proposals to locate a permanent site for gypsies and travellers at a rural hamlet where a country fair has been held annually for more than 100 years.
Aikey Brae in the parish of Old Deer regularly attracts thousands of visitors every July for its summer fair. And it is now set to be used as a stop over site for travellers under proposals to go before a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee next week.
Ritchie Johnson, the council’s director of Housing and Social Work, states in a report to the committee: “Aberdeenshire Council has for several years been endeavouring to identify areas of land with the potential to be developed as stop over sites for gypsies and travellers.
“Four locations have been identified in the Local Development Plan (LDP) but these may take several years to become established. Outwith the LDP no sites have so far been identified and it has not been possible to enter into any other meaningful discussions with landowners.”
He explains that, as a result, council officials had looked at sites on council-owned land at Fraserburgh, Ellon, Macduff, Peterhead and Old Deer which have been used as unauthorised encampments over the past few years as a potential alternative.
Mr Johnson states: “The sites at Fraserburgh and Peterhead are unsuitable as they are both along the beach and coast roads. The land at Ellon is not suitable as it is close to the town centre and gypsies and travellers prefer not to be located close to town centres.
“The two areas of land in Macduff are unsuitable as one is in the centre of an industrial area, which is not ideal for families and encampments with horses, and the other site has been let for industrial development
“The site at Aikey Brae, just outside Old Deer, is considered a feasible option. Aikey Brae continues to be used as an unauthorised encampment by the travelling community. There are already large areas of hard standing on the site, natural bunding in the quarry area and access to water. The number of complaints from near by residents has been negligible in the past and is generally acceptable as a suitable stopping place for gypsies and travellers”
He adds: “As the site has been used as an unauthorised Gypsy/Traveller stop over site for more than ten years a Certificate of Lawfulness under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 may be applied for. If a Certificate of Lawfulness is granted by an application, this would conclusively establish that Aikey Brae has been used as a stop over site, remove the need for planning permission for this use and make it immune from future enforcement action.”
He is recommending that the committee agrees in principle to establish the permanent site at Aikey Brae and to ask officials to report back on a detailed scheme, The council has already allocated up £128,000 in its capital plan to progress the establishment of a stop over site.