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Published 23 August 2019

West Dunbartonshire Council will seek public opinion on the best ways to coordinate and manage relationships with the Gypsy/Traveller Community.

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 during summer months, 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 in Scotland to review the solutions they have in place.

They told members of the Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development Committee today that a number of solutions to provide a longer term approach would be considered in consultation with residents, the Gypsy/Traveller community and key local services.

One approach which could be considered is the creation of an additional designated site to accommodate additional members of the Gypsy/Traveller community, with the aim of reducing the number of unauthorised camps, minimising disruption to residents, and also decreasing the resultant costs to the Council.

Members of the committee approved officers undertaking a period of early consultation for potential future options, as well as approving the criteria to be used for the evaluation of prospective temporary stopping places.

Councillor Iain McLaren, Convener of the Committee, said: “We are all aware of the challenges that are brought about by unauthorised sites being used throughout West Dunbartonshire including disruption for local residents, refuse build up and often a costly clearance required once the camp has moved on.

“Given this annual challenge, I am pleased to see that we are putting a lot of thought into a more proactive and longer term solution, and that officers will consult directly with the Gypsy/Traveller community to ensure their views are represented and requirements recorded.”

Councillor Marie McNair, Vice Convener, added: “This early consultation will ensure that we can engender a positive relationship with the Gypsy/Traveller community going forward and will lead to a solution that is suitable for all.

“I know that other authorities operate seasonal sites with strict rules about length of stay, and report a marked reduction in unauthorised encampments since these were created. This consultation, and agreeing the criteria for potential sites, will put us in a good position for creating a more viable way of managing this going forward.”

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.