We must find camp solution

Travellers at the old pico offices in Woodside Glenrothes
Travellers at the old pico offices in Woodside Glenrothes

Plans to avoid the town being plagued by unwanted and illegal traveller encampments for a second year have been outlined by Fife Council.

John Mills, head of housing services told councillors at a special briefing that the local authority were considering a number of permanent camp sites within the Glenrothes area.

The move is designed to ease the problem that last year saw 13 illegal emcampments in the town that cost the tax payer an estimated £45,000 in clean up and legal costs.

Potential sites in Southfield and Whitehill in Glenrothes and a former Fife Council depot in Thornton are currently being assessed for suitability before a formal public consutation process is undertaken to decide two pilot sites.

Mr Mills said : “We have got to find a solution to the chaos of last year.

“It’s not an understatement that the problems face last year were severe and with Fife Council having a legal requirement to provide alternative sites and the Lord Advocate’s non-harrassment policy, we have a difficult situation to overcome.”

Mr Mills stressed however that no formal proposal had yet been made and that the next stage would be to present options in a report expected to be put before the Executive Committee in April.

Altany Craik, Glenrothes Area chairman, said:”Any proposal to seek additional sites for gypsy travellers is controversial in the eyes of the public but the Council has a duty to provide accommodation and to seek to prevent the mayhem that local businesses experienced last spring and summer at Eastfield and Southfield.

“We will consult with local Community Councils and businesses when a proposed site has been identified.”

The briefing followed last week’s Glenrothes Area Committee meeting and drew an angry response from several Thornton residents who called for a proposed site at Strathore road to be scrapped.

Mr Mills put the blame for last year’s illegal encampment problems down to travellers from south of the border.

He said: “We tend to know the majority of traveller families in this country and have a good relationship and continuous dialogue with them.

“We found that the problems encountered last year were mainly the result of traveller families usually base in England for much of the year that travel up to Scotland and through Fife at certain periods.”

With the traveller ‘season’ running from March through to October the Fife authority are under pressure to find adequate provision in the form of at least two new pilot sites to cope with any influx of travellers to the area.

With previous site proposals in rural areas having not proved successful, and the three existing permanent camps in Fife under occupied, Mr Mills told councillors the matter is now being treated as a priority.

Costs involved in setting up and maintaining the pilot sites is yet to be finalised .