Councillors to consider new Gypsy/Traveller site in West Dunbartonshire
West Dunbartonshire Council will today consider the development of a short-stay site to accommodate additional members of the Gypsy/Traveller community during the summer months.
The council area, in particular Dumbarton, is a traditional stopping place for many gypsy and travelling families, and while the local authority already has an established ‘fixed’ site at Dennystoun Forge, there is increasing demand for short stay pitches, particularly in June, July and August, when there have been unauthorised encampments in public spaces.
Officers have conducted research to identify the best way to manage the additional camps and, as part of this, visited other authorities throughout Scotland to review the solutions they have in place.
It is now being proposed that an additional designated site is created in West Dunbartonshire with the aim of reducing the number of unauthorised camps, minimising disruption to residents, and also decreasing the resultant costs to the council.
The proposal will be considered by members of the infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee this morning in Clydebank Town Hall.
Members will decide on the criteria to be used for the evaluation of potential temporary stopping places and also consider undertaking early engagement with communities on potential future options.
Richard Cairns, strategic director for regeneration, environment and growth, said: “The use of unauthorised sites brings with it a number of challenges, including the suitability of the site and the issue of waste – with refuse collection required during occupation and often a clearance afterwards.
“Our standard practice in recent years has been to respond to unauthorised encampments on council-owned land by raising an action for eviction through the Council legal team. This has resulted in Gypsy/Traveller settlements rotating on a regular basis from site to site across the area, leaving recurring legal costs.
“Given the ongoing annual challenge around coordination and management of unauthorised encampments, a proactive and longer term approach to managing temporary demand is required.
“Early consultation on the potential for a new authorised site would ensure a proactive and positive relationship with this community going forward.”
One of the authorities visited was Aberdeenshire Council, which operates a seasonal site open April to September incorporating 30 pitches and a transit site which is open year round. The transit site has a maximum stay period in place to ensure it does not become a fixed site by default. It has reported a marked reduction in unauthorised encampments since the sites were developed.
Any proposal for a temporary stopping place locally will take account of both user and local needs, with criteria including the size and suitability of the site, ease of access, the boundaries, impact and proximity to settled communities, the tradition and history of proposed sites related to Gypsy/Travellers, the cost of development, access to services and environmental impact.
If the proposal is given the go ahead, a programme of consultation will be undertaken, involving key local services, residents, and the gypsy/traveller community.