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There are ten caravans and a converted trailer wooden chalet taking up the whole car park at King’s Place, a situation that has infuriated locals in Portobello for five years.
But tensions have escalated in recent weeks after the council served a formal notice to the owners to remove their caravans. Two abandoned caravans have since been craned off the site.
In response the residents started a petition which has garnered 283 signatures and are now seeking legal advice, as they claim the move to kick them out is a breach of their human rights.
The owner of bar next to the car park has claimed the caravans are ‘killing’ his business and demanded they be removed. Angry locals previously alleged the campers were dumping their faeces on the beach.
The previous notice to remove caravans has now expired, but following legal discussions, another extended period was agreed with Edinburgh City Council. One person has signed up to vacate the site by August 16.
One man who has lived at the site for two years told the Evening News: “We want to stay in our homes and sustain an eco friendly lifestyle. We help clean up the beach when we can.
“We are not travellers. We all live and work here. It’s really distressing to get this notice telling us we are an obstruction. Do they have the right to remove caravans with people living in them? They have asked us to declare ourselves homeless and threatened to get a court order to remove us.
"We don't take more space than we need and we work. There are some musicians, joiner, plumber, artists and volunteers. And last year we started planters in front of caravans to keep the place looking a bit nicer. We have a little permaculture project too.”
"I don’t want to give up my home. We want to live as a community and have tried to find land. If they would let us stay we would be willing to paying rent. I believe the business next door wants to get rid of us because they want to extend their outside area. It’s really loud with lots of drunk people right beside us. Other local people are angry about that too.”
Boathouse bar owner Harem Murdochy said: “It's killing the business. The caravans are a health and safety risk with no facilities so customers can see tanks of waste right in front of them. This is a public space.
"It's not right they can just park up and live in a prime seaside location. It's chaotic with people in and out and the vans change hands. Now we have to put up screens to try and block the view of them and the smells of weed. I am not trying to take people’s way of life away to make money.
"I’d do anything to help, even offer them a job if they wanted it. But it’s just not fair. They can’t be allowed to ruin this business and spoil the area.”
A council spokesperson said: “Officers have been working hard to liaise occupants of caravans on King’s Place for a significant period of time, visiting regularly to support and assist them to seek alternative accommodation.
“The caravans are causing an obstruction on the road and we have therefore given notice to owners to move caravans under Section 59 (1) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. Since issuing the notice on June 14 we have continued to liaise with occupants and their legal representatives regarding the date by which the site should be cleared.
“We will continue to work with occupants and assist with the removal of caravans, if they are no longer required."