The 2012 season has seen a new venture at Ballater Caravan Park – a community group has taken over the management from Aberdeenshire Council.
Ballater (RD) Ltd, known as BRD, is taking a long lease and will be running the park for the benefit of the local community.
Group member Michael Franklin said despite various small hiccups, the transfer had gone quite smoothly and everyone was looking forward to the Jubilee holiday weekend when the season would start in earnest.
He said talks between BRD and the council started at the end of 2007. The council had sought people to take over the running of its 11 caravan parks which were operating at an overall loss. However, little progress was made until April 2011 when the council, facing severe cutbacks, decided to stop running caravan parks altogether.
“The 11 parks are very different in style and size and transferring them, mostly to community groups, was a major effort,” he said. “Numerous problems inevitably led to delays and some confusion. So getting things ready for the opening would have caused problems were it not for experienced wardens, Sue Anderson and Mark Pountain.”
Mr Franklin said Ballater Caravan Park was started during the 1960s by the former Ballater Burgh Council which bought the land from Invercauld Estate.
After various changes in local government, it is now owned by Aberdeenshire Council but the new set up means the running of the park is returning to Ballater.
The park currently has some 36 touring caravan pitches and about 40 camping pitches for short-term visitors. It also has 102 static caravans, which are rented out for the season.
Mr Franklin said that because BRD was a registered charity, the park would be run by a subsidiary company called Ballater Community Enterprise.
He said: “The first chairman is Paddy Wright who has been involved since talks began. Paddy believes that local management will make things better as it can see what the future needs are and also respond more quickly to problems.
Mr Wright said: “The caravan park is in a lovely position, next to the river and surrounded by hills. It is also near both the village centre and golf course. However, the park needs improving if it is to keep its appeal. At first, the camp will require a big investment which will be paid for out of earnings. Later, it should be possible for the some of the profits to be spent on other local projects.”
Mr Franklin said one of the areas requiring urgent attention was the reception block - a prefabricated building originally used by the Air Training Corps.
“A purpose-built office would not only cost less to run but would be more welcoming to visitors,” he said. “The laundry is also less than ideal as it is housed in a portable building which vibrates when the washing machines are in use. Various other improvements have been identified but at present the priority is to make a success of the first season.”
Advertisements and bookings are being transferred from the council to BRD so new website www.ballatercaravanpark.com provides more details. The new e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Franklin said: “Although BRD will manage the park for the community, it hopes that this will be seen as a community undertaking and it welcomes offers of help. “One of the first needs is for some better furnishings for the users’ rest area. If any individual or group feel that they can help in this, or other ways, can they please contact Gillian at BRD on (013397) 55467.”