New twist in Selkirk travellers row

The ongoing row concerning travellers in Selkirk took a new twist this week, as Scottish Borders Council shelved plans to move them to a new site.

By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 2:15 pm
The unused land Scottish Borders Council was preparing for travellers, which now won't be used following opposition from residents. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
The unused land Scottish Borders Council was preparing for travellers, which now won't be used following opposition from residents. Photo: Bill McBurnie.

Members of the travelling community have been placed in the town’s Victoria Park since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, but claims of damage to the adjoining rugby pitch and rubbish lying around the site had locals up in arms.

A new, temporary site at Ettrick Mill, just along the road at Dunsdalehaugh, was scoped by Scottish Borders Council, so that one remaining family could keep their kids in school until the end of the term. The cost to the council was expected to be around £370,000.

However, the council has been slammed for its handling of this, after residents and businesses there said the site wasn’t suitable, and they had not been consulted, and now the travellers will stay at Victoria Park until the end of June.

One resident at Dunsdalehaugh, David Weir, told The Southern: “This was never a Nimby response by us … it simply was never a suitable site.

"There is potential site contamination from its previous use as a working mill; it’s right next to an electricity substation, and there are access concerns.

"There was no communication from the council, let alone any stakeholder consultation with local businesses and residents, some of whom live within a few metres from the entrance to the site.

“It’s also the level of investment that is being made … this is local taxpayers’ money and over £300,000 for three months temporary relocation does not demonstrate best value.”

Now, however, residents have been informed that the council is no longer looking to relocate the travellers at the site, and that they would be at Victoria Park until June 30.

Stuart Easingwood, director of social work and practice at SBC, said: “Agreement has been reached between ourselves and Live Borders to allow the traveller families to remain on the Victoria Park site in Selkirk until the end of June. They will then be required to vacate the site and it will be re-opened by Live Borders to tourists on a commercial basis as of July 1.

“Some initial preparatory work had been undertaken at Ettrick Mill to assess the suitability of this as an alternative site, but in the end it was agreed that Victoria Park remains the most viable solution for these families at this time.

"The investigative work carried was of relatively low value and could be used to help with any potential sale of Ettrick Mill in the future.

“Work is also ongoing in terms of a more detailed strategy for the provision of accommodation of travellers in the Borders.

"This follows on from the report presented to members at the council meeting in December 2021.

"This work includes a review of the arrangements at Tweedside Caravan Park in Innerleithen (currently the only designated traveller site in the Borders) as well as undertaking a housing needs assessment for travellers and travelling showpeople to better understand their accommodation needs.

"Should evidence of the need for any additional sites be identified, the intention would be to factor this into future versions of both the local housing strategy and strategic housing investment plan.”