Bid for a new £3m traveller site is on the agenda
Providing provision for travellers that both meet their needs and addresses the concerns of neighbouring residents has long proved problematic.
Scottish Borders Council identified four sites in its ownership as potential sites, but they have all been deemed unsuitable.
Now a ‘call for sites’ is to be put out early in 2023 to invite landowners and organisations to come forward with suggested locations that could be developed.
Estimates say such a site, earmarked for the Central Borders, would cost “upwards of £3m”, although it is hoped that 60 per cent of those costs would come from central government.
The aim is to accommodate between 5-7 pitches initially and a total of 10-14 pitches in the longer term.
A report to a meeting of the full council on Thursday, December 15, approved by John Curry, the local authority’s director of Infrastructure and Environment, says: “Given there are no suitable options in SBC ownership the proposed next step is to put out a ‘call for sites’ in 2023.
“This will provide an opportunity for private landowners and organisations to let the council know about land which could be developed for the purpose of gypsy/traveller site provision.
“Officers will then bring back a short-list of the potential sites as part of an options appraisal process which meet the identified requirements for the council’s consideration.
“Any location identified would be subject to an outline business case and a full planning application. Based on feedback from other local authorities the provision of the new site could potentially cost upwards of £3m, and more where there are site acquisition costs and other infrastructure or access requirements to be addressed.
“It is anticipated that Scottish Government grant funding could be available for up to 60 per cent of the project costs through the Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Fund.
“An opportunity to bid for grant funding is expected in 2024, however it is likely council we will have to decide whether to proceed with a potential acquisition/s and submit an application prior to this potential contribution being known. There is the additional risk that SBC is unsuccessful with a bid for grant funding and will be required to self-fund the whole project.”
During Covid-19 restrictions, SBC provided temporary provision for travellers at the Victoria Park leisure facility in Selkirk, but that was closed on June 30 this year.
Some of those occupying the site have since set up unauthorised encampments across the region and others have moved on.
The only current provision is a council-owned but privately-run seasonal site at Tweedside Caravan Park in Innerleithen.
The report adds: “Potential sites must be centrally located with good access to services and amenities, meet all the requirements set out by the Scottish Government and most importantly meet the needs and aspirations of the gypsy/traveller community.”