Aikey ‘not the best place’ for gypsies says historian

editorial image

PROPOSALS for the establishment of a gypsy traveller stopover site at Aikey Brae near Old Deer have come under criticism from a local historian.

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee were asked to approve the site in principle at their meeting in Aberdeen on Thursday, but the move has been met with concern from gypsy campaigner Billy Rennie.

The site at Aikey Brae has been used as an unauthorised encampment by the travelling community for more than ten years. With large areas of hard standing, natural bunding and access to water, it is considered a suitable stopping place for gypsy/travellers.

For use as a 14-pitch stopover site, a water pipe, portable toilets andrefuse facilities would be installed and regularly maintained at Aikey Braes.

Aberdeenshire Council has been trying to identify areas of land for use as stopover sites for several years.

The creation of these sites would meet the accommodation needs of gypsy/travellers, as identified in the Craigforth Accommodation Study carried out in 2009.

Consultations with the travelling community about their needs, as part of the Craigforth research and again in 2012, identified a lack of stopover sites as one of their biggest concerns in Aberdeenshire.

Councillors approved the potential creation of the site, in principle, subject to wider consultation including with the Buchan Area Committee. The plans will then be referred to the Gypsy/Traveller Sub-Committee for detailed consideration, after councillors agreed to extend the remit of the sub-committee to include determining the provision of accommodation for gypsy/travellers.

A final decision will bemade at a future meeting of the policy and resources committee.

However, speaking to the Buchanie last week, Mr Rennie, who campaigned for an official gypsy/travellers site more than a decade ago, said that Aikey was not the ideal place for a site.

“There are a whole heap of issues against the use of this site,” he said.

“No-one is against having a site for the travellers, but Aikey is not the place it should be.

“Aikey is an established historically important site and has several protected species there. There is also a potential fire hazard if camp fires are set in the area. I’m sure there are better sites in the area,” he added.