Community council debates travellers

ELLON Community Council became the latest group in the North-east to experience the frustrations of attempting to resolve issues involving the travelling people who are currently camped illegally at the Balmacassie industrial estate, located on the north side of the town.

Chairman Sandy McDougall set the scene for the debate at Monday night’s meeting when he said: “We need to establish the position of the community council on this issue. The existing situation is not acceptable, we must take a more business-like attitude to the problem, though there are clearly social issues that need to be addressed.”

For more than an hour the meeting debated the problem.

The concerns raised included who pays for cleaning up the site, the role of central and local government, the part played by the landlords of the existing site and the long-term bid to create transit camps in the north area of Aberdeenshire.

The police were also in the equation, making daily visits to the Balmacassie site.

Constable Jennifer Cordiner told the meeting: “We are continually monitoring the situation, while occasionally responding to complaints from the public.”

Ellon and district councillor Rob Merson pointed out that the council were currently seeking sites for two camps, but agreed this was in the longer term.

He said: “We need to be seen to fair to all parties, but at the moment there appears to be an imbalance with the odds stacked against the public on the right side of the law.”

As frustrations grew in the meeting, vice-chairman Mark Grant urged that a more co-ordinated approach should be taken.

Ellon and district councillor Gillian Owen expressed her concern about the intimidation being experienced by members of the local community who passed through and nearby the site.

She said: “There is a code of conduct which is not being adhered to by the travellers. Members of the public should not have to put up with the abuse that has been reported to me in the last few weeks.”

Members agreed that charges should be made in respect of clearing up, even if meant losing money in pursuing the claims.

Mr McDougall said at the end of the meeting: “We support Aberdeenshire’s strategy to find an appropriate site, the forcing of the code of conduct, and the implementation of charges. It has been a difficult, but hopefully a useful debate.”

The tensions of unathorised campsites are not confined to Ellon, as throughout the country local groups wrestle to come to terms with a problem that many fear will never be resolved,