Councillors grapple with the thorny issue of finding a suitable site or sites for travelling people in the Borders

Scottish Borders Council should push ahead with creating two designated sites for travelling people in the region, councillors have been urged.

Travellers site at Victoria Park in Selkirk.
Travellers site at Victoria Park in Selkirk.

Members of the full council last week agreed the launch of a full feasibility study on the suitability of land at Galafoot Lane in Galafoot, Galashiels as a long-term option for a permanent travellers site.

The move comes amid unrest in Selkirk over the travellers site established at Victoria Park after the first lockdown last year. Locals claimed the site was a mess and that its presence led to the town losing out on potential staycationers.

Victoria Park is still seen as the best short-term option for travellers but in August this year the families there left and established unauthorised encampments in a number of Borders locations, including the car park opposite council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells, Galafoot in Galashiels and various sites on an industrial estate in Selkirk.

The council report recommended the “scoping of Etterick Mill, Selkirk as an

alternative site that may be more suitable in the short to medium term and allow for Victoria Park to be returned to a commercial site as early as possible next year”.

But longer term Galafoot Lane has been identified as a possible solution – although due to suspected contamination of the land it could take years to make it safe enough to move on to.

At last week’s meeting Selkirkshire councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol called instead for the development of two smaller sites and her amendment to explore that was agreed.

She said: "Having learned so much about gypsy travellers I am aware that there are cultural and historical matters which means that some families will not share a space with others. If we were able to provide two smaller sites, rather than one large one, this would reduce the risk of unauthorised encampments occurring because there would be an alternative site. The travellers here in the Borders have nothing but praise for the area, some of the children are at school, and that is a major change. We cannot put people in a field with no services or in a car park with no privacy. Putting up a fence does not make this fine.”