Travellers site to move to Coalpots Road

The old nursery site at Coalpots Road
The old nursery site at Coalpots Road

Members of the travelling community are to have a temporary site built on Coalpots Road in Girvan after their previous site was wrecked during Storm Frank.

The travellers’ site at Houdston in Girvan is to be temporarily relocated to a site at Coalpots Road after the bill for repairing the Houdston site was found to be around £1 million.

However there are already concerns by a local elected member at the proximity of the site to busy roads, schools and residential areas.

A report due to go before a full meeting of South Ayrshire Council’s leadership panel on Tuesday, February 16 states that the Houdston site was so badly damaged that it cannot be protected from further flooding in future.

Councillors at the meeting will hear that emergency powers are to be used to temporarily relocate the site to Coalpots Road for health and safety reasons.

Girvan Independent Councillor Alec Clark said: “I understand that the council has a duty of care to travellers and we welcome them to this area, however it is neither in their interest or the residents to have a site in that location.

“It is 50 yards away from a residential area and the road there becomes the main route to Northern Ireland when there is a diversion in place, so it is a very busy road at times.

“Adjacent is Girvan Academy and the new Invergarven school will also be in that area. It is not the place for an encampment. The site has also had Commonwealth Games legacy funding spent on a bike track for the Academy, that will just be wiped out.”

“I have made it very clear that I cannot support this proposal.”

On 30th December 2015 the site suffered significant flooding as a result of Storm Frank. The site is surrounded by the Water of Girvan on three sides and defence mechanisms could not cope with the unprecedented rising water.

As a result, six of the eight caravans on site were damaged beyond repair while most families lost the majority of their personal belongings.

Residents from the site are currently living in a mix of temporary homeless accommodation, a private let, with friends/family or pitched at the roadside.

Since 30th December, officers, volunteers and charitable organisations have offered substantial support to the displaced residents. This has included provision of food, clothing and bedding while money or vouchers has been accessed for each resident through the council’s Community Care Grant Scheme, from Asda Girvan and Riverside Church.

The Scottish Government flood payment of £1500 has also been made to each tenant. For those families pitched at the roadside, the council has provided electric generators, calor gas, petrol for the generators and provided access to the shower facilities within the Harbourmaster’s office.

A site inspection found the flood has caused significant damage to the existing protection measures, while the earth protection banks are saturated. Therefore, the site is at high risk of future flooding.

The report to the council by head of housing David Burns states: “Costs of reinstatement and protection are estimated between £850,000 and £1 million, with no guarantee that flooding of the site will not occur in the future.

“Although the majority of residents have been left with no caravan, they have indicated their intention to acquire a replacement once an alternative site has been identified for them.

“Council officers have now identified the former nursery at Coalpots Road, Girvan as the most suitable option. “This option also allows the travelling community to remain in Girvan and for children to attend their existing schools whilst the nursery site itself was used temporarily by Gypsy/Travellers in 1998 while improvement works were carried out to the Houdston site.

“Due to the significant health and safety risks from caravans pitched at roadside and from residents continuing to access the site pending full clean up, emergency powers have been used by the council to relocate the site on a temporary basis to the former nursery site.

“This has involved instruction to create a hard standing area suitable for eight caravans and associated vehicles,

provision of water and bathing facilities and provision of a supply of water and electricity to the site. It is anticipated that costs for this work will be in the region of £100,000.”

The reports states that this is a temporary measure pending member agreement to a longer term solution. The cost to clean up the Houdston site is estimated at £40,000 and the cost to prepare land and provide the necessary services to the temporary site at Coalpots Road is in the region of £100,000. Feasibility work on a potential long term solution is estimated at £15,000.