Restrictions bring hope for end of unauthorised encampments

Councillor Thomson is asking for barriers to deter travellers from setting up camp at Ellon's Park and Ride.
Councillor Thomson is asking for barriers to deter travellers from setting up camp at Ellon's Park and Ride.

AN ELLON councillor has welcomed the news that the town’s Park and Ride facility will shortly have width restrictions to prevent unauthorised encampments by Travellers.

Cllr Richard Thomson had lobbied for the move, despite ongoing delays over upgrades to the site. Speaking to the Times, he said that it was a common-sense solution to a problem which has long bedevilled the town’s Park and Ride.

Earlier last year, local members on the Formartine Area Committee approved plans to expand the Ellon Park and Ride site. As part of these works, the entrance junction was to be narrowed and retractable bollards installed to prevent unauthorised usage.

However, councillors were told that the width restrictions could not be installed until the second phase of the project was underway, as buses would need to be able to access the current car park while the existing bus turning area was out of use during construction.

Following a number of public complaints, Cllr Thomson made a direct plea to Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Infrastructure

Services to investigate the possibility of installing temporary width restrictions, which would allow cars to continue accessing the site, but which could ensure that necessary service vehicle and bus access could be maintained. Following this intervention, officials have now agreed to bring forward the introduction of width restriction measures.

Cllr Thomson told the Times: “I think this is a very sensible solution to the problem of misuse of the Park and Ride site which we experienced last summer.

“A number of groups used the site as a halting point between various other sites in the Ellon area. By making the site inaccessible to caravans, hopefully Aberdeenshire Council can save considerably on the time, effort and cost involved in moving people on from where they shouldn’t be.

“The Park and Ride is a very well used facility and its expansion is something which will benefit everyone. However, it’s important that no-one planning to use it as intended is put off from doing so by anyone misusing the site.

“I’m very pleased that Council officers have responded so positively to this constructive proposal and I look forward to the width

restrictions being in place before summer gets underway.”

Two separate groups of travellers were evicted by Aberdeenshire Council from the Ellon Park and Ride site over the course of last summer.

The town remains a popular destination for the travelling community, with a number of separate encampments by different groups over the course of last year. While the Park and Ride remained the most popular destination and was generally left in a reasonably good condition, Balmacassie Industrial Estate was also occupied, with large quantities of rubbish and industrial waste left behind, forcing the local authority to foot the clean-up bill.

The town also remains at the centre of contentious proposals for a halting site as part of the Local Development Plan, as part of ongoing industrial development at Balmacassie.

The proposals are currently opposed by the community council, with local members divided on the matter.