Cross-party agreement for new Gypsy/Traveller Service Provision

East Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet has agreed a new multi-agency approach to service provision for Gypsy/Travellers in East Ayrshire.

Agreed with cross-party support, the new approach between Housing Services, Planning and Vibrant Communities sets out a range of measures to help foster a better understanding of Gypsy/Traveller lifestyle, including training for the Council's Elected Members, staff, Community Planning Partners and communities.

It also aims to help Gypsy/Travellers better understand the effect they can have on the local area and provide them with a single point of contact within the Council.

A new 'Negotiated Stopping Places' approach to unauthorised encampments  is also being piloted in partnership with the Scottish Government and COSLA.

Negotiated Stopping Places are an alternative to the traditional enforcement-based approach to unauthorised encampments that stop on public land.

They involve open dialogue and negotiation between the Council and Gypsy/Travellers who pass through the area, to enable them to stay for an agreed, limited period of time, while adhering to a code of conduct specified by the Council.

The concept is based on similar, successful Negotiated Stopping Place models used in England, helping support Gypsy/Travellers to maintain their way of life, while reducing the number of encampments on unsuitable sites and building positive relationships with the local community.

Welcoming the agreement, Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “The negotiated stopping arrangement has proved popular with Gypsy/Travellers in other areas, who have struggled to maintain their way of life, often finding themselves alienated from other local communities.

“It’s a simple, effective solution and I’m delighted it has been agreed with cross-party support.”

Councillor Tom Cook, Leader of the Conservative Party added: “The provision of a dedicated Gypsy/Traveller Integration and Engagement Officer, liaising between the Council, Gypsy/Travellers and local communities is a sensible idea and allows for any misunderstandings, or particular needs to be addressed quickly, before these escalate.

“By offering a short-term stay at a site that is suitable, we can all set out key responsibilities and expectations, while still respecting each other’s rights. It’s a neat solution and I’m happy to support it.”

Councillor John McGhee, Leader of the Labour Party said: “Similar initiatives in different areas show that an up-front agreement to maintain a clean, litter-free, respectful environment, in return for Council recognition and support is helpful and, in almost all instances, welcome.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to agree this new policy.”

Councillor Elena Whitham, the Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities said: “The new policy recognises the Council’s legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and draws on best practice defined in Scottish Planning Policy, published in 2014.

“It is modelled on similar agreements already in place in England, which have proved extremely successful in supporting the  Gypsy/Traveller community, as well as fostering improved relations with local communities.

“I believe it will make a telling and long lasting impact in how we understand and positively manage Gypsy/Traveller encampments in East Ayrshire.”