TAXPAYERS have been left with a hefty bill after travellers set up camp on an East Lothian nature park.
Shocked residents reported a group of caravans and trucks on Shinty Field – part of Levenhall Links in Musselburgh that is famed for bird watching.
Eviction-threatened travellers abandoned the site this week, leaving the council to clear up rubbish and put up barriers to prevent their return.
Tory member for Musselburgh, Councillor Katie Mackie, said: “I have received complaints from local residents. It’s unfair that council taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the clean-up.
“This is an ongoing problem across Scotland and work needs to be done with the travelling community to address this issue.”
Council officers were told of nine vehicles parked up on land known as the Shinty Field at Levenhall Lagoons for two weeks.
Travellers were served with court papers on Friday by sheriff officers and had left before a hearing on Tuesday could award an eviction notice.
Height barriers are now being hastily reinstalled at the site to prevent high-sided vehicles from driving onto the fields.
SNP member for Musselburgh, Cllr Stuart Currie, said: “It is important that where there are concerns from residents and council officers that action is taken, although it is often a slow legal process.
“The council cannot afford to keep on paying any clean-up cost, so physical barriers seems the best way forward.”
Fellow SNP member, Cllr John Williamson, said: “The travellers have moved on just before court action was due to be heard.
“The barriers at the Links will now be repaired and hopefully there will be no more incidents like this, which cause disruption to the area through prevention on activities on the site occupied.
“It is unfortunate that council taxpayers always have to foot the bill for clearing up the mess left behind.”
The 134-hectare links were reclaimed from the sea by building a wall and pumping large amounts of pulverised ash into lagoons from the old coal-fired Cockenzie Power Station.
Restored and landscaped with shallow pools for wading birds, the area has become a popular site for twitchers, as well as an informal golf practice area. The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club originated at Levenhall Links before moving to Prestongrange House.
An East Lothian Council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the popularity of the East Lothian coastline for overnight campervans, but have put in place height barriers to restrict vehicles illegally staying for long periods.
“Legal action was taken to evict a number of vans, which had occupied a site at Musselburgh Lagoons for more than a week. Although the vehicles left without an eviction notice being served, the council is having to take remedial action to remove considerable amounts of rubbish and other debris left behind.”