Moray Council set for another stand-off with travelling family

Stewart Cree - land occupied in Keith Wood is contaminated
Stewart Cree – land occupied in Keith Wood is contaminated

MORAY COUNCIL COULD be in line for another tense stand-off over land occupied long-term by a family of travellers.

The local authority are seeking to evict Alexander McPhee and his family from a site they have occupied on Cottage Wood in Keith for the last 14 years.

A decree granting eviction has already been obtained at Elgin Sheriff Court with the family being given a deadline that will see them removed from the site in two weeks – with sheriff officers on standby to ensure that the removal takes place.

Council leader Stewart Cree – who is also a local independent councillor for the Keith and Cullen ward – insisted that the family had to move as the land was “toxic” and so the local authority had a duty of care to move the family on.

Councillor Cree said that it had only recently been discovered that the land had at one point been used as a rubbish dump, insisting that the decision to evict the McPhee’s had nothing to do with the fact that they were a travelling family.

He said: “We have a duty of care – they have been there for some time but it is a health risk, we cannot allow anyone to live on contaminated land.”

The council leader added that “a great deal was being done” to try and make the move as acceptable as possible for the family.

However, the McPhee’s have promised that they will not go quietly, insisting that the council are just using the historic state of the land as an excuse to move them on. Alexander McPhee said: “They are saying they want to replant it with trees – how can they do that if it is toxic?

“This is just going to cause a big uproar – there is maybe going to be 20-30 trailers all over Keith, they told us we have to remove everything but we are currently fighting it and going nowhere.”

In 2010 Moray Councillors rejected plans to establish two official travellers’ sites in Buckie and Forres. Figures since has shown that the local authority had paid a higher price for dealing with unauthorised sites than any other council in Scotland.

The local authority attempted to dismantle a permanent site near Lhanbryde built on land that had been purchased by a travelling family and built on without planning permission – however, the Scottish Government reporter granted permission for them to remain on the site for at least three years.