ELLON’S councillors had to answer questions on Monday, after community council chairwoman Moira Muir made an impassioned plea for a solution to be found in the ongoing Caroline’s Wells road debacle.
Cllrs Isobel Davidson and Gillian Owen, who act as trustees for the woods, defended the decision to instal a temporary access through the woods - to service the Castle Meadows development - as the only legally viable option they had been presented with.
The woods are governed under a Blench Charter, after being gifted to the people of Ellon by Sir James McDonald. The 1928 charter rules out the possibility of roads being constructed through the woods, reserves Sir James’ right to access the gun room at Turnishaw House, and assigned £160 to fund a ranger for the park and woodland areas.
However chairwoman Moira Muir argued that the temporary arrangement was not viable in the long term, and that removal of the access would leave the new development cut off from the town centre, which had originally been a major selling point of the development.
“The town centre will lose out if this road is not built,” she said. “Somewhere along the line, we need to convince the people of Ellon that this road is needed. The council says that it can’t breach this charter, however it already has by demolishing the Turnishaw house and failing to maintain the woods properly.
“At the Area Committee meeting, squirrels, bats and trees were better represented than the people of Ellon. The houses at this development nearest the town centre will be the ones most difficult to access,” she added.
However Cllrs Owen and Davidson defended the decision, on the grounds that any other conclusion would have left the trustees open to legal action.
“None of us disagree,” said Cllr Davidson. “There should be a road. But we had to make the decision as trustees - our hands were tied. The senior legal team said that we cannot breach the Blench Charter.”
Cllr Owen added: “Myself and Cllr Davidson know a lot about the legal position, including a lot that we can’t speak about publicly.”
Suggestions were made that a road could be built through Ellon Academy’s land, and the councillors gave assurances that the issue would be considered as an alternative access.