Council sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities

Many councils in Scotland provide sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities to stay in, either temporarily or permanently. This page looks at what these sites are like, how you can apply for a pitch, and what you can do if you aren't happy with the facilities or the way the site is run.

What are council sites like?

At present, Scottish councils provide around 500 pitches for Gypsy and Traveller communities across 32 sites. Most council sites are open all year round, although a few councils (for example, in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire) operate seasonal sites to deal with an increased need for pitches during the summer. Site sizes vary, from fewer than ten pitches to up to 30.

Which councils provide sites?

The following councils provide sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities:

What facilities do council sites have?

Facilities for each pitch can include:

  • a hard standing for a caravan

  • space to park a car or other vehicle

  • space for a second caravan, as additional accommodation for your household or for guests

  • toilets

  • showers and/or baths

  • some storage space

  • an area for preparing and cooking food

  • a secure mailbox

  • communal areas, such as meeting rooms or children's play areas

  • access to education and health services, for example a health visitor or teacher may call at the site.

Bear in mind that some sites are much better equipped than others, and that the facilities aren't always accessible for disabled people.

How do I get a pitch on a council site?

You can't just move onto a council site, you'll need to apply for a place first. Usually you'll need to fill in an application form, which you should be able to get from the council's housing department or from the site office.

Many sites have vacant pitches, but if the site is full, the council should keep a waiting list. Usually places are given out on a 'first come first served' basis, so when a pitch becomes free, the person who's been on the waiting list the longest will get it. However, some councils may use the same allocations policy they use for deciding who gets council housing. This means that people who need a pitch the most (for example, people who don't have anywhere else to stay) will be given priority on the list. Contact the council to find out how their application process works and how pitches are allocated in their area.

Can the council refuse my application?

The council may refuse your application if:

  • you have rent arrears from a previous stay on a council site

  • other residents refuse to accept you onto the site

  • you have had problems with a tenancy on a council site in the past, for example, due to antisocial behaviour.

What are my rights on a council site?

Your rights will vary depending on the agreement you have with the council. When you move onto the site, the council should give you an occupancy agreement in writing, which you'll need to sign. This agreement will vary between councils, but in general it should set out:

  • contact details for the site manager and a list of the things they're responsible for

  • site rules, for example, about visitors, pets, antisocial behaviour and use of the facilities

  • what to do if any part of the site needs repair work to be carried out

  • how to complain if you're unhappy about anything on site.

The occupancy agreement should be available in accessible formats, such as Braille or on tape, and the site manager or the council's liaison officer should talk you through it as well. You can also speak to an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice if you're unsure about anything.

Some councils give Gypsy and Traveller communities stronger rights on site than others. On some council sites, you will have rights similar to those of a Scottish secure tenant in a council house.

Find out more about Scottish secure tenants' rights. On other sites, you will have far more limited rights.

What rent will I have to pay?

Pitch rents on council sites can vary. However, you may be able to claim Housing Benefit to help pay your rent.

What if I fall behind with the rent?

If you don't pay your rent, the council will be able to evict you from the pitch (see 'what if the council asks me to leave' below), so make sure you prioritise your rent payments over other bills and costs. If you find yourself falling behind with the rent, talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice or Shelter advice centre as soon as possible. They may be able to help you apply for backdated benefits or sort out a payment plan with the site manager, so you won't be asked to leave the site.

Find out more about rent arrears.

If you move on from a council site without paying your arrears, the council may not let you move back on again later. In addition, you may find it hard to get a place on another council site.

Will I have to pay for utilities?

In addition to the pitch rent, you'll also need to pay for electricity. Depending on the site's policy, you may need to pay for this in advance, or when you're billed. Alternatively, some sites require you to buy a pre-payment card for electricity.

There are laws governing the prices you can be charged for electricity. The council:

  • can only charge you for the electricity you have used

  • can only charge you what they themselves have been charged for the electricity

  • cannot resell you the supply at a profit.

Read the page on utilities in the mobile homes section to find out more about this.

Will I have to pay council tax?

Residents on sites are expected to pay council tax.

Find out more about council tax.

How long can I stay on the site?

There is no time limit to your stay on the site. Some Gypsy and Traveller communities have lived on sites in Scotland for over ten years.

Will I lose my pitch if I leave the site to travel?

Most councils will allow you to keep your pitch on the site for a specified time while you are away travelling, usually up to 12 weeks a year. Your occupancy agreement may set out the site's policy, or you can check with the site manager.

What can I do if site conditions are poor?

If you're not happy with the facilities or conditions on the site, you should first contact the site manager or the council's liaison officer. If things don't improve, you should put in an official complaint, using the council's complaints process. You should have been told how this process worked when you moved onto the site, but if not, the site manager or liaison officer should be able to talk you through it.

Find out more about complaining to the council.

If the council still doesn't take action to improve conditions, you can try winning support for your case by contacting local councillors. Look up your council's website or call their switchboard for councillors' contact details.

In addition, you may be able to take your case to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

What can I do if I am a disabled person and the site is not accessible?

If the site or its facilities are not accessible for you, you should make a complaint to the site manager and council as outlined above. All councils and other public authorities in Scotland have a responsibility to ensure that their services are accessible and inclusive, and to promote equal opportunities for disabled people in all areas. This is known as the disability equality duty. In addition, it is against the law for the council to discriminate against you because you are disabled, by treating you less favourably than a non-disabled person or offering you a poorer service. You can find out more about disability discrimination and what you can do if you think you are being discriminated against here.

What if the council asks me to leave?

If the council tries to evict you from the site, you may be able to delay or even prevent the eviction. Read the page on eviction by the council to find out more.

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Last updated: 24 January 2020

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