Councillors are being asked to consider the development of a transient site for Gypsy/Travellers in Perth.
The proposed site on land near the Food and Drink Park in North Muirton will be discussed at a meeting of the Housing and Social Wellbeing Committee on Wednesday 25th January.
A report to the Committee highlights that the Council has a responsibility to provide services to all members of the Gypsy/Traveller community, including those travelling through the area temporarily.
In recent years it has become clear that the needs of the Gypsy/Travellers are changing and that current arrangements do not meet these needs. This is creating additional pressures on Council services, as well as frustration within local communities.
The report says that around 20 temporary Gypsy/Traveller encampments arrive in Perth & Kinross each year, with a large number stopping in Perth City, particularly at North Muirton. The average length of stay is around 50 days, which has significantly increased in recent years.
Councillors will be told that the Council has been participating in a national Negotiated Stopping Place pilot scheme for Gypsy/Travellers since 2019. This approach involves dialogue and negotiation between the Council and Gypsy/Travellers who pass through the area, to agree temporary sites for stays.
However, during the pilot no obvious appropriate stopping places have been identified and agreed upon by visiting Gypsy/Travellers and Council officers. The scheme also allows stays of no more than 28 days, which the Gypsy/Traveller community has said is inadequate.
To address the issue a working group made up of Council officers and Gypsy/Traveller representatives was set up to identify potential stopping sites. An appraisal was conducted involving the screening of a number of sites.
The group concluded that the Negotiated Stopping criteria was not meeting the current needs of visiting Gypsy/Travellers or the local community, and that the development of a transient site would be a more appropriate solution.
The most appropriate site was identified on land north of the existing Food & Drink Park, Arran Road, Perth. This land is close to a site already commonly used by visiting Gypsy/Travellers because:
- It is a historical stopping off site with a rural aspect close to the River Almond
- It is close to local services and can be easily accessed
- There are no residential homes in the immediate vicinity (as preferred by encampment residents)
- There is access on to the main road networks and sufficient area for small animals to be accommodated
- There is a variety of work opportunities in and around the city.
To explore this further, a consultation was carried out with Council officers, local businesses and local elected members. The local Community Council was also informed of the proposal.
In general, it was accepted that a transient site in this location would be an improvement for all concerned. Businesses acknowledged that, in the absence of such a site, it was highly likely that unauthorised encampments would continue. Therefore, a managed site, sympathetically landscaped, provided with appropriate amenities would be a better solution.
Committee Convener, Councillor Tom McEwan, said: "The Council has a duty to provide services for the Gypsy/Traveller community, and we have to balance this with our responsibilities to local communities.
"Unauthorised encampments are not ideal for Gypsy/Travellers and can cause concern in local communities. They also require a level of resource from the Council so we can support people on these encampments.
"Our work has shown that an agreed transient site with facilities and amenities provided for Gypsy/Travellers is the best solution for everyone concerned. It would meet the needs of Gypsy/Travellers much more effectively, would allow the Council and other organisations to provide adequate support and assistance to the Gypsy/Traveller community and also foster better relations with settled communities.
"Consultation with local businesses and organisations has shown that, in general, people agree that this is the correct way to proceed.
"The Committee is only being asked to approve the transient site in principle. There is currently no funding identified in our budgets for the infrastructure that would be needed. However, it will be useful to have agreement in place so that if money does become available, the project can go ahead. This will prevent any future delays."