CONTROVERSIAL plans for traveller’s site in the heart of a Scottish village have been dropped.
The proposed stopover site in Fife had prompted a storm of protest from outraged residents but the local authority was forced into a u-turn when they discovered they did not own the land.
Currently Fife council leases the Cairneyhill site, which is owned by Wemyss Estates. The council ruled out a compulsory purchase order on the land as it would have taken too long.
Councillor Alice McGarry, chair of the council’s gypsy travellers working group, said: “I think initially it was thought the land was owned by the council but it was only leased.
“In the end, the landowners, Wemyss Estates, did not want the travellers’ site to go ahead. We ould have gone down the compulsory purchase route but that could have taken years.
“So as far as Cairneyhill is concerned that’s it, although it’s not to say that the travellers won’t come back there. That’s been a regular stop for them but it will be down to the landowners to take action if they do.”
Local MSP and Councillor Bill Walker welcomed the decision but slammed the council for continuing with the “wasteful fiasco”.
He said: “This is actually a good decision as access to and from the site was very dangerous but it should never have got this far.
“Surely the council should have ascertained long before now whether the ground would have been available. A huge amount of public upset and cost has been caused in this whole matter which simply confirms my previous request to Fife council chief executive Ronnie Hinds for an urgent inquiry into the manner that this entire issue was handled by council officers.
“Although Mr Hinds admits that that ‘things could have been done better’, he sees no grounds for any disciplinary steps to be taken against any council officer.
“In my opinion this is all not good enough and is mirrored in a number of other decisions and projects across Fife.”
The site is one of three planned by the council, one of which is due to be built on the outskirts of the picturesque East Neuk village of Crail.
Despite local objections to the existing illegal encampment the council voted to spend £5000 on turning it into a proper site, complete with toilets and running water.
Residents of the village, which has been described as “one of the glories of Britain”, claim travellers using the site have terrorised the neighbourhood and left the once-picturesque picnic site a squalid mess.
But the council claims in an official document that “The failure to establish stopover sites may have a negative impact on the council’s ability to seek an eviction order from Sheriff or High Courts to remove gypsy travellers from unauthorised encampments.”