Udny travellers’ site knocked back

editorial image

FORMARTINE Area Committee unanimously turned down a private permanent Traveller’s pitch near Udny on Tuesday, following recommendations from planners that it be refused permission.

The project was initially deferred at the last Formartine meeting on the grounds that councillors required more information.

The MacDonald family had sought to make provision for three caravans, with a utility unit, tarmac and decked area at the site at Tillygreig. However, the development had attracted 22 letters of objection from neighbouring properties, as well as one from Udny Community Council which raised concerns about the rural nature of the development and access issues associated with caravans on small country roads.

Architect for the MacDonald family, Forbes Rowan Spence Marr, spoke to the Times afterwards attacking the council’s policies regarding private Gypsy/Traveller sites, describing the present situation as a “policy vacuum”

“The policies are worse than inadequate - they’re non existent,” he said. He added that he would consider appealing the case to Scottish Ministers, who would have power to overturn the area committee’s decision.

“Seven out of ten applications turned down by local authorities are later approved by Scottish ministers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Simmers family managed to secure permission for two separate wind turbines on land beside Woodlands Farm, Udny and Hill of Fechel, near Whiterashes, after a succession of applications for similar projects were turned down in recent months.

Planners gave their backing, but both proposals were opposed by Mid Formartine Cllrs Hendry and Gifford, who raised concerns that the region between Ellon and Oldmeldrum was being saturated with wind-power developments. Chairman John Loveday voted in favour of both projects, adding, however, that he personally would be reluctant to give permission for others in the area, citing cumulative impact as one of his own concerns. He also admitted that the committee as a whole had ‘underestimated’ the size and scale of past windfarm projects, describing some of the larger developments near Methlick as “appalling”.

“We shouldn’t go there again,” he said. “The turbines here are quite a bit smaller, however, and - in this case - are acceptable. But it is getting to the stage that there is a problem in this area.”

Cllr Merson agreed that the projects should be given the go-ahead, saying: “There would be little substance in rejection.”

Members also received a report from Douglas Rennie, Formartine and Garioch Economic Development Officer, regarding economic activity in Formartine over the past year.

Mr Rennie informed members that the region accounted for 21% of Aberdeenshire’s new business star-ups, with 561 ventures launched between 2010 and 2011.

He also pointed out that unemployment figures indicated that the Formartine economy performs better than most other Aberdeenshire areas and that Aberdeenshire has a lower unemployment rate when compared to Scotland as a whole, with just 1.8% of the population receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance.

This compares to a rate of 4.3% across Scotland. Formartine’s unemployment rate is currently 1.3%, or 268 individuals currently in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Councillors welcomed the report, and said that it highlighted many of the area’s strengths, with Chairman Loveday commenting: “The report shows Formartine in a very positive light.”

In other planning news, councillors limited the Meldrum Sports Funfair to a closing time of 11pm, citing police concerns about closure of the event coinciding with the conclusion of the dance. Councillors also listened favourably to a report from Community Planning Officer Mark Mitchell on council-led initiatives in the area.