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Councillors approve pilot scheme to allow Travellers to camp on council land for 28 days

Caravans at the Murray Royal hospital site in Perth
Caravans at the Murray Royal hospital site in Perth

Councillors have agreed to a pilot scheme that will allow Traveller communities to camp for short periods of time on land across Perth and Kinross.

The six-month pilot gives Travellers the right to occupy pre-agreed, council-owned sites for a period of 28 days after they appear in an area, as long as they stick to a code of conduct.

Under the Negotiated Stopping Places deal they would not be permitted to return to the site for 12 months after they leave.

Councillor Peter Barrett, convener of the housing and communities committee, called the scheme “a step in the right direction” as the recommendation was agreed by councillors on Wednesday.

Concerns over the proposal were raised by Chris Ahern, councillor for Perth City Centre, who was worried communities would continue to return to the sites outside the designated 12-month periods.

The camp on Arran Road.

Mr Ahern said: “We’ve got sites in the city centre that are being used by Gypsy Travellers and I’m concerned that on one or two sites, if they’re regarded as suitable, then that becomes a normal site.”

The convener, Mr Barrett, tried to alleviate Mr Ahern’s concerns by reiterating Traveller communities would not be allowed to return to a site within 12 months of a departure.

It is thought that are around ten to 12 groups that move into Perth and Kinross each year, with the local authority believed to have the highest population of Travellers in Scotland.

On Friday, a group of Travellers moved into the former Murray Royal Hospital site leading to complaints from neighbours.

In March, the council was forced to present a formal eviction notice to a group who had set up at Perth Food and Drink Park without permission around three months earlier.

Council officers hope the pilot system will deal with the ongoing issues around unauthorised sites being used as makeshift camps.

Mr Barrett said: “Negotiated stopping places are an alternative to the traditional enforcement-based approach to unauthorised encampments.

“The approach involves dialogue and negotiation between the council and Travellers who pass through the area.

“All negotiated stopping sites will be in suitable places that will not bring the travellers into conflict with the local settled community.”

The scheme is already being used by Leeds City Council as well as other local authorities within Scotland.

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