Village dedicated to special needs under threat

Charles Sarle takes a break from weeding the vegetable garden and looks across the valley. Some of his friends are milking cows, others can be heard making furniture in the craft workshop. The smell of homemade bread wafts from Alan Leiper's bakery and the community's organic food store is doing a brisk trade.

Charles Sarle takes a break from weeding the vegetable garden and looks across the valley. Some of his friends are milking cows, others can be heard making furniture in the craft workshop. The smell of homemade bread wafts from Alan Leiper's bakery and the community's organic food store is doing a brisk trade.

"I love my home," Mr Sarle said. "I have lived here for 22 years. But my friends and I are worried about the future." He points to the faint outline of a drilling-rig in the mist. "We can't understand why they want to build a busy road right through our village."

Home for Charles and 180 other adults and children is the Camphill Community, a Rudolf Steiner centre for people with special needs, set in the lush Dee Valley on the outskirts of Aberdeen. Camphill was the brainchild of Karl Konig, a Viennese pediatrician who fled the Nazis in 1939. For 65 years, staff and volunteers here have helped to create a secure and peaceful haven for thousands of people, like Mr Sarle, who would find it difficult to cope with life in the mainstream.

But today's residents are fighting to save their home from being destroyed to make way for a bypass. The Scottish Executive, which is financing the project, is threatening the community with legal action to gain access to the site for surveying.

Life in Camphill bears more resemblance to a kibbutz than a care facility; everybody has a stake in how the village is run and people are encouraged to lead independent and fulfilling lives. The home is credited with playing a leading role in changing social attitudes towards those with learning disabilities. The Aberdeen estate has expanded as a centre for curative education, but the movement has expanded worldwide to include 90 centres in 21 countries.

Yet if road chiefs have their way, the £120m dual carriageway, which forms part of north-east Scotland's long-term transport strategy to reduce congestion and encourage economic benefits, will be built through the heart of this community. The proposed route will dissect the two Camphill complexes of Newton Dee and Murtle, coming within 50 metres of the bedroom windows of severely autistic children.

Residents and workers fear that if their campaign to have the road rerouted fails, the presence of the bypass and a 14m-high steel bridge across the river Dee will be devastating. "If the road is not diverted past Camphill, we know that our community won't survive," Dr Stefan Geider, a GP at the village, says. "Surveying work has begun in earnest and already we are seeing how this is distressing the residents."

Dr Geider said the natural landscape and tranquillity was an essential backdrop for the community's work. "This route will destroy not just the quality of life, but the holistic tools we use to work with the children. "The therapeutic environment at Camphill depends on the calm atmosphere for the residents, who are often over-sensitive and stressed by noise, and many of them have sleeping difficulties and other complex needs." Loud noises cause some severely autistic residents violent muscle spasms, Dr Geider said.

At present, many villagers wander freely around the site but the development could mean some adults would need constant supervision. "Years of nurturing independence for our residents would be wiped away," Dr Geider said.

Jeremy Paxman, the Newsnight anchorman who has visited the community, said: "If the road was going to be routed across an old battlefield, or through a hedgehog sanctuary, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth, protests from eco-warriors and the rest. They should find somewhere else to put their road." Other supporters include Trudie Goodwin, an actress in The Bill, whose sister-in-law stays at the centre and the former children's television presenter Timmy Mallet, whose brother Martin is a Camphill resident.

Preliminary work on the bypass has begun and drilling rigs and trucks are dotted around. The Scottish Executive's threat to take the community to court has outraged supporters. The Herald, based in Glasgow, accused the Executive of "crass insensitivity", saying the site was "of special human interest and must be saved". The newspaper added: "The Executive said it hopes to reach agreement but as a last resort ministers are entitled by law to access the land."

Nicol Stephen, the Scottish Minister for Transport, and local MP, said no final decision has been made and that the Executive was committed to paying special consideration to the circumstances of Newton Dee.

Gideon Cowen, a dairy farmer and care worker in the village, said: "The children are fascinated by traffic. Some are frightened of it but most have no understanding of how dangerous it can be. But why build on this land? Perhaps the road chiefs thought a centre for vulnerable people would be the line of least resistance. They were wrong."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links