|An illegal traveller encampment at Inverkeithing|
Public asked for views on official stopover sites for travellers
Fifers are to be canvassed on plans to set up stopover sites for gypsy travellers passing through the region.
By Aileen Robertson
Published in the Courier : 05.04.11
Sites at Cairneyhill, Crossgates, Cardenden and Crail are to be created by Fife Council to address the problem of large illegal encampments costing businesses thousands of pounds.
The council has spoken to councillors and intends to meet community councils this month. Next month, council officers are set to hold public information sessions to hear the concerns of residents.
Last year, problems arose when large encampments of gypsy travellers descended on private land.
The council says it is trying to prevent private land owners and businesses having to shell out thousands on taking legal action to have travellers moved on and clearing up after they have gone.
As well as proposing stopover sites, the council set up a working group, which has submitted a paper to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers calling for more powers to take enforcement action when travellers pitch up illegally.
Housing management and homelessness senior manager John Mills said the council would find it difficult to take legal action without offering travellers drop-off sites as an alternative.
"We've been talking for some years about creating stopover sites and this is the first of four sites in Fife," he said.
"If the council doesn't set up these sites, it would make it more difficult in the future to take legal action against unauthorised encampments."
While the sites are set to be unpopular with some residents, Mr Mills said the council had a responsibility to accommodate the needs of gypsy travellers.
"We're still looking at Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes for suitable sites. We envisage six or eight of these stopover sites eventually across Fife.
"We need to inform people better about what gypsy travellers are about. When we have unauthorised encampments close to residential and business areas we do tend to have conflict."
Councillor Alice McGarry, the chairwoman of Fife's gypsy travellers working group, said she hoped the public information sessions would "allay fears".
She said, "The permanent sites that we have in Fife do not cause any problems whatsoever. The majority of gypsy travellers just want somewhere to pitch up while they are travelling through Fife and then move on.
"One or two of them will cause difficulties but then again some settled people cause problems as well.
"We want to have discussions and alleviate any concerns. It would give us a better chance to argue in front of a sheriff that we have to move them on if we have sites already available."