Council to be asked to support new plan for Gypsy/Traveller stopover site at Aikey Brae

Aberdeenshire Council is to be asked to agree that a planning application be submitted for the first phase of a Gypsy/Traveller stopover site at Aikey Brae, Old Deer. The approach was agreed at the most recent meeting of the council’s Gypsy/Traveller Sub-Committee in June, following a detailed discussion of the site and proposed management measures. Aikey Brae was previously investigated as a potential stopover site in 2014 but it was agreed that no planning application be submitted at that time. Instead, a comprehensive strategy was developed for a number of sites across Aberdeenshire, with the aim of identifying at least one area of land in each of north, central and south Aberdeenshire that might be suitable for development. A total of four areas of land were identified: at Golf Road, Ellon; a council roads depot at Laurencekirk; land at the former papermill at Thainstone, Inverurie; and Aikey Brae at Old Deer. Following further assessment, the sites at Ellon, Inverurie and Laurencekirk were discounted, and it was agreed that a proposal be developed for Aikey Brae. The committee heard that a two-phase approach to development has been outlined, due to financial constraints. The site would initially have 10 pitches and would be open for six months of the year, supported by a part-time site manager, and monitored via CCTV. It would initially operate for five years, after which consideration would be given to continuing without change, developing the second phase, or closing the site if there is no demand or it is not cost-effective. Aberdeenshire Council has a budget of £126,000 for the development of a stopover site, coupled with a further £38,000 from the Scottish Government. This leaves a shortfall of £66,000 to be identified for the project. In their discussion, the committee looked at the wider issues surrounding site provision, including potential links with the operators of existing sites, before going on to agree that the approach be made to full council. Speaking after the sub-committee, chair Cllr Allan Hendry said: “We had a healthy discussion about the work that has been done to identify suitable stopover sites in recent years. “That work will continue, but there is an urgent need to increase the provision currently available in Aberdeenshire.”