Councillors have approved plans to create a stopover site for travellers at Aikey Brae near Old Deer.
The plans were discussed at a full council meeting on Thursday, March 9, with 36 votes in support of the application and 18 against. The approved plan will see work carried out on a stopover site with provision for 10 pitches and associated vehicles.
At the meeting, Mairi Stewart, planning manager at Aberdeenshire Council, explained the requirement of the council to identify suitable sites for travellers.
She said the planning service considered key areas including the principle of the development on the site, including compliance with Local Development Plan (LDP) policies and meeting criteria for travellers, visual impact on the area and other considerations.
She added that there was a proven need for a stopover site due to the number of unauthorised encampments across Aberdeenshire and that the proposal met the requirements of the LDP.
The Director of Education assured councillors that the area would be zoned within Maud and school places would be made available.
Councillors were also told that granting the application would have a positive impact on the traveller community.
Central Buchan councillor Norman Smith said that while he recognised the pressures on the council to identify sites for travellers, he didn’t feel this was the correct one as it was close to a busy road and the site experienced flooding.
Councillor Jim Ingram described the site as “disappointing” and said travellers need access to facilities and services which aren’t locally available.
The chair of the Gypsy/Traveller sub-committee, councillor Allan Hendry, said that consultation with travellers showed they would use Aikey Brae as a stopover and he urged his fellow councillors to back the plans.
Cllr Martin Ford seconded cllr Hendry although he did recognise that Aikey Brae would not fulfil the council’s gypsy/traveller provision.
He said: “We have to start somewhere and this is the place to start.”
Cllr Anne Robertson said the plan was “a good start” and that it was an opportunity to make a positive change.