Traveller’s camps result in costly Fife clean up

A new encampment set up in Gilvenbank park in Glenrothes last week.
A new encampment set up in Gilvenbank park in Glenrothes last week.

A new report has revealed that the total cost of traveller’s camps to Fife Council in 2015 was £62,000.

And over half that total amount was spent in Glenrothes, it has been revealed.

In a new report presented to Glenrothes area committee, it confirms the total cost to Fife Council in legal action, management and clean up cost during the ‘gypsy travelling season of 2015 was £62,000 - of which £32,294 was spent on illegal camps specifically within the Glenrothes area.

The town has had a long history of problems with illegal encampments despite it being host to one of the Fife authority’s three permanent traveller camp sites at Heatherywood in Thornton, which has been operating for over two decades.

During the 2015 season - which traditionally runs between March and October, 21 of the 79 recorded illegal encampments across Fife were within Glenrothes, 19 of which resulted in eviction notices needing to be served before travellers would move on.

The local authority, which is bound by Scottish legislation that only allows them to evict from Fife Council owned property, and not privately owned land which is the responsibility of the landlord or owner, works on a programme of co-operation with travellers, before seeking a 48 hour court eviction in the High Court for those refusing to leave. Ninety-nine per cent of all court orders are successful, but come at significant cost.

And with the council last year failing to secure further permanent camp sites in the town due to site suitability and public resistance, the town is bracing itself for a repeat of problems encountered in recent years.

A council workshop to discuss the issues of how to tackle illegal encampments, which is set to take place in May, has been criticised by community councillors.

“Yet again Fife Council is doing too little too late,” said Peter Scobie, Pitteuchar, Stenton and Finglassie Community Council chairman.

“We get the same old story every year that the problem will be dealt with, yet nothing improves. They should have come up with a plan last year, not be sitting down in a month’s time to discuss the issue, it’s a joke. A real effort must be made to find a permanent site for the travelling community.”

The yearly cycle of illegal encampments continues with travellers having allegedly broken through barriers at Gilvenbank Park last week to pitch up on council controlled land.