Plans for Scotland’s first retirement village specifically targeted at the traveller community have been lodged for a site at Humbie in West Lothian.
Developers say it is hoped the retirement village will be for older members of the gypsy/traveller community and other minorities along with other elderly people from West Lothian.
The development, which will aim to “break down the barriers of inequality by inviting the settled community and the gypsy/travelling community to stay together in older age”, will be the first of its kind in the UK if it goes ahead.
Plans for the Humbie Retirement Village, which have been lodged with the local authority, consist of 26 static homes and a community centre for “cultural and sporting events”.
Local businessman Jack Hendry, who owns the ground, has origins in the travelling community, and says he wants to give something back to his community.
“This isn’t just another business opportunity. I feel there is a genuine need for this kind of development. Too many people from minorities, including travellers, have had to live with prejudice and discrimination all their lives. They deserve a chance to enjoy their old age.
“We intend to create a retirement village which will appeal to everyone, including people from the mainstream settled community,” he said.
The development would provide services and opportunities which people from the traveller community would otherwise not be able to access. Shelter and Age Concern have voiced their support for the project.
Currently there are no official traveller sites and no proposals for them in West Lothian.
In Scotland, the government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report (2017) highlights that gypsy/travellers have a shorter life expectancy due to the lack of suitable accommodation, access to health services and discrimination.
The plan urges the council to consider the potential of the development to “foster good community relations by bringing people together from both the settled and traveller communities and the need for support which is culturally relevant”.
The proposed site is in an agricultural area and plans include an open area for people to enjoy the countryside.
The lodges would be supplied by Stately-Albion. The site is close to the village of Kirknewton and the plan proposes the use of a dial-a-ride bus service for inhabitants. The application follows the publication of a report last month demonstrating a failure of some local authorities to provide sites for travelling people which meet government standards.
Planning consultant Alan Seath said: “What Mr Hendry is doing is providing good quality, residential accommodation in a nice environment. We hope to improve the health and well-being of all in the community.”