From the Inverness Courier
MORE designated Traveller sites are needed in the Inverness area to prevent illegal encampments, according to the owner of a city caravan site.
Pauline Macdonald, of the Bught Park Caravan Park and Camp Site, called on Highland Council to take more action after travellers recently set up camp in a nearby riverside beauty spot, having bypassed stone barriers.
More than 100 large boulders were installed by the council last year at a cost of £15,000 in a bid to prevent access to land surrounding the Highland Archive Centre at Bught Park. The measure was taken after a group of Travellers were evicted from the land, leaving behind litter, building material and the remains of fires.
However, the line of boulders appeared to have been easily by-passed by recent groups of Travellers, although the site was clear yesterday.
Mrs Macdonald is relieved the latest unauthorised encampment has moved on although she said the travellers had posed no direct problems to her site which she runs with her husband.
She believed despite the council’s attempts to prevent access to the land near the archive centre, it would be quite difficult to deter Travellers. She maintained the solution lay in providing more short-term sites.
“It is very difficult,” she said. “They should have proper places to stay with access to toilets and showers.”
She also pointed out that some Travellers are accepted on her site. “We have good travellers and if they don’t behave, they get moved on,” she said. “Sometimes the travellers we have are better than the tourists. We have some very nice families. They abide by the rules. They keep their homes immaculate.”
Other areas which have experienced unauthorised Traveller camps include the Inverness Retail Park and Smithton roundabout.
David McGrath, chairman of Smithton and Culloden Community Council, believes that more short stay sites are needed urgently and pointed out several potential locations have been identified in the Inner Moray Firth local development plan which is currently the subject of public consultation. They include Stratton Point, off the A96 between Seafield and Milton, Inverness Airport and Torvean Quarry off the A82.
“The community council is fully supportive of Highland Council opening short stay sites,” he said. “I would like to see that carried out sooner rather than later. I would also like to see it supported by legislation whereby the council could immediately move travellers from any ground other than prescribed sites.”
Mr McGrath said finding an absolute deterrent is difficult. “Unless you put up a Second World War tank trap, you are not going to stop them,” he said.
Inverness West SNP councillor Allan Duffy denied the installation of boulders last year were a waste of time and money. “Unfortunately, we do have sites for travellers to go to but they do like to go to whatever spots they want to,” said Councillor Duffy who hopes a mutually-agreeable solution can be found.
A Highland Council spokesman said there will be a review of the measures implemented. “Generally, the boulders have proved successful but on this one occasion there has been a breach,” he said.