Negotiated stopping places for the Gypsy/Traveller community will bring benefits

A pilot scheme that would enable Gypsy/Traveller communities to stop for short periods at negotiated sites in Perth and Kinross is being proposed.

Negotiated stopping sites will offer potential benefits to both the travelling and settled communities by reducing the number of 'unauthorised' encampments at unsuitable locations, while still supporting the preservation of the Gypsy/Traveller culture.

Members of the Housing and Communities Committee will be asked to approve the Negotiated Stopping Sites pilot scheme, which will be carried out in partnership with the Scottish Government and CoSLA, at a meeting on Wednesday 15 May.

Councillor Peter Barrett, the committee Convener, explained: "Perth and Kinross is traditionally an area that the Gypsy/Traveller community has lived in or travelled through. This community has the right to have their culture respected and maintained, and the Council has a duty and responsibility to provide services for them.

"We need to balance that against the rights of the settled community, and unauthorised encampments in unsuitable places can result in friction between the two communities.

"Negotiated stopping places are an alternative to the traditional enforcement-based approach to unauthorised encampments. The approach involves dialogue and negotiation between the Council and Gypsy/Travellers who pass through the area. It will enable Gypsy/Travellers to stay at an agreed site for maximum of 28 days, while adhering to a code of conduct specified by the Council.

"All negotiated stopping sites will be in suitable places that will not bring the Gypsy/Travellers into conflict with the local settled community. Sites will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will be monitored by Council officers at least once a week. If the agreement is breached the people responsible will be asked to leave. Following the departure of the encampment the same site will not be used for negotiated stopping for a period of 12 months.

"This approach has been used by Leeds City Council and has brought significant advantages such as cost savings related to dealing with unauthorised encampments, better community cohesion by breaking down negative stereotypes and Gypsy/Travellers having better access to services such as education and health.

"This is a sensible and collaborative way forward which recognises the rights of Gypsy/Travellers and will help prevent problems often associated with unauthorised encampments."

If Councillors approve the proposal a future update will be brought to Committee detailing the outcomes of the pilot with recommendations for the future provision of Negotiated Stopping Places.