Fewer than half Gypsy/Traveller sites in Scotland meet basic living standards, warns regulator

Written by Tom Freeman on 24 October 2018 in News

"Huge concern" at Scottish Housing Regulator as over half of council-run Travellers sites fail to meet basic minimum standards

Hidden caravan - credit LHoon

Fewer than half of Scotland’s permanent Gypsy/Traveller sites meet the basic standards of accommodation, the country’s housing regulator has revealed.

In a new report into the progress of social landlords in meeting basic standards of safety, maintenance and energy efficiency, the Scottish Housing Regulator found only 13 sites meet the minimum requirements.

All but one of the 27 designated sites for Travellers are run by local authorities, who had been given three years to bring the sites up to standard.

Those that have failed have until November to come up with detailed plans of how to bring the 14 failing sites up to standard.

One council, Dumfries and Galloway, has so far failed to give the regulator any indication of when its two sites will meet basic requirements.

Launching the report at Holyrood’s Safe Homes for Gypsy/Travellers event yesterday , SHR chair George Walker said  the regulator had “huge concern” and was considering its options.

He said: “We have already written to these landlords ahead of publication of our report. We require each of them to develop and give us, by mid-November, a remedial plan setting out how they will achieve the minimum site standards, without further delay.”

Traveller Martha McPhee asked how can councils can justify charging rent on a site that doesn't even meet the standards of “being liveable”.

A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Council told Holyrood it was “working  towards” meeting the minimum standards.

“An improvement plan has been agreed and a number of enhancements have been delivered to ensure that residents on our sites have fair access to safe facilities. These include putting in place a new tenancy agreement that reflects the core rights and responsibilities of tenants, repairs carried out within agreed timescales and residents being regularly consulted in relation to any proposed changes to their site.

“We have also produced a number of policies and procedures that reflect the required standards. Dumfries and Galloway Council ensures that we treat all site residents fairly and with respect.”

COSLA’s Cllr Elena Whitham said: “I think it’s fair to say this is not the report that local government was wanting to read. It is deeply worrying to learn that a number of these sites are not meeting minimum requirements.

“We will be supporting our member councils over the coming months to identify any obstacles that are getting in the way of progress, and help in any way we can to ensure swift improvements are put in place.”

She added: “COSLA’s wellbeing board is also clear that local government must strive to go further than minimum standards of delivery.”

It is hoped the Planning Bill will help provide opportunities for Traveller communities to play a greater role in decisions around future sites.

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