The long-running search for a halting site for Travellers is close to being finalised by South Ayrshire Council [SAC].

The facility is set to cost around £900,000 to build, with SAC providing up to £500,000, if it is approved by cabinet on Tuesday, June 14.

A year ago, the council began the search for sites that could provide a designated area to support Travellers who camp in the area.

As well as seeking to improve the lives of Travellers, halting - or transit - sites also provide an alternative to those who would otherwise camp illegally on private ground.

The situation also highlights the differing facilities needed for those who have settled in one area and those who maintain their traditional lifestyle.

There is currently a "settled" facility at Houdston Reid-Lea, in Girvan, a site which meets demands for those Travellers who have settled into the area.

In a report to the council’s cabinet (formerly the leadership panel), Assistant Director at SAC, Kevin Carr, states: “One of the immediate gaps in provision is around the availability of a designated area to support and accommodate Gypsy/Traveller encampments that occur in South Ayrshire.”

Travellers had suggested that a site within, or near, Ayr or Prestwick would be the most suitable.

Several sites were looked at over the last year, but just one was deemed suitable.

Sites and groups looked at included Bargeny Estate, Cassillis Estate, the National Farmers Union and Mosshill Industrial Estate.

In March, the council finally made a breakthrough with Cockhill Farm, outside Ayr, being selected as the preferred location.

As part of the process, a consultation was carried out, with 27 people against the plans and just three in favour.

Mr Carr’s report states that the negative responses were related to the location, cost, loss of habitat and a lack of access to amenities.

At the same time a full design and feasibility study was undertaken.

Two sites at the farm have been identified. One is to the south and another to the east of the farm.

The report continues: “Both sites are positioned close to established tree lines to provide screening and privacy, they are distant from a private property and both can be accessed from the existing road into the site.

“The detailed feedback received from the Gypsy/ Traveller community will now be considered to ensure an inclusive design development that aligns with their cultural traditions.”

The £900k facility will include:

  • Pitches for caravans, motorhomes and cars, each with an electricity supply and drainage connection.
  • Paved, hardstanding site with good access link
  • Washroom facilities including showers and WCs
  • Laundry facility
  • Bin store
  • Drying area
  • Recreational space
  • Renewable technologies

The report recommends the second site and states that the facility would require planning permission.

Another farmer approached the council, offering to have ‘discussions’ on using an area of his land, which is close to Cockhill Farm.

Councillors will decide whether officials should pursue this as well as finalise the Cockhill Farm project.

The council has already submitted an application to the Scottish Government’s Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Fund, as the fund closed in May.