Call for greater urgency over traveller sites by local councils

A report has warned that there will be greater hostility against travellers unless local councils show greater urgency in creating permanent sites.

The call from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that local authorities needed to show greater urgency by putting in place long-term strategies rather than working on a case-by-case basis.

A lack of any specific policy on traveller sites in Moray led to the council publishing a consultation document in 2013 when then chair of the planning and regulation services committee, Councillor Douglas Ross, said that it was important the council had effective policies in place to consider applications from travelling communities “as this has been highlighted as lacking in the past”.

That followed controversy over a permanent site at Doohill in Councillor Ross’ Fochabers/Lhanbryde ward, the site being built despite it having been rejected twice by Moray planners.

Responding to the call by the EHRC Councillor Ross, who is no longer a member of the ruling administration group, said that while he “completely understands” why a standardised policy would be of benefit to the traveller community he believed that all too often there was a belief that travellers were “exempted from the laws” that others must adhere to.

Now the leader of the Conservative group at Moray Council, Councillor Ross said: “If the travelling community wants to be treated equally they have to play their part.

“Too often have we seen local authorities and police turn a blind eye when planning rules and other laws are not adhered to. In the past Moray Council has had a dedicated site that cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds and was damaged by travellers themselves.

“People in Moray get frustrated when illegal sites are set up and damaged but even more so when legal sites are damaged.”

Alex Neil, the cabinet secretary for social justice at the Scottish Government, responded to the EHRC report by insisting that it was a matter best left to individual local authorities.

He said: “Decisions about the provision of gypsy-traveller sites are best made at the local level by those with local knowledge and accountability.”

Attempts by Moray Council to find a suitable permanent site for travellers led to failure with Councillors admitting in October 2013 that they had exhausted all available options.

Leave a comment