Curbs on Downs van dwellers considered
The Downs committee agreed in November to set up a taskforce to decide what should be done about van dwellers.
Some neighbours are demanding a ban on those who lead the alternative lifestyle – either out of choice or because of the housing crisis – from camping overnight on the roadside, making the area a “no-go zone” and using it as a “latrine”.
Van dwellers just want to be left alone and insist that, far from the troublemakers they are portrayed to be, they are actually active members of the community who tidy up litter and mess left by others on the fields and have even stopped crime. They also want to be part of the conversation over how to tackle the issue.
It’s a problem Bristol City Council admits is near impossible to manage, as traffic wardens often can’t tell which vehicles are breaking parking restrictions, such as returning after a couple of hours or exceeding five hours at a time, without setting up camp in the area themselves.
A report to the committee said that between September 2019 and January this year, traffic wardens lodged 199 vehicle registrations during 133 visits to Parrys Lane, Saville Road, Ladies Mile, Stoke Road and Circular Road where they issued 79 tickets.
“Despite this targeted activity, it does not appear to have had any impact on the levels of vehicle dwellers on the Downs,” the report said.
It said concerns had been raised over antisocial behaviour and that there were more than 50 occupied vehicles in the area in early September 2020.
The report said “direction to leave notices”, which ban their return within three months, were served on those parked up on September 16 and that more would follow.
It laid out five options to tackle the issue – applying for an injunction to remove the vans, reducing the maximum stay in existing bays, extending the no-return period from two to eight hours, longer patrols by traffic wardens and amending the traffic regulation order to restrict parking of any kind by certain vehicles.
These would apply to roads and do not include parking on the grass or any related bylaws.
Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze ward Tory Cllr Steve Smith said: “This issue is something I get a lot of correspondence about from local people.
“It is a big and very complicated issue that is about more than parking restrictions.
“If we have parking restrictions in place that were put there for a purpose and they are not being or cannot be enforced then that’s a problem we ought to do something about. We shouldn’t allow that to stand.”
Members agreed to a suggestion by committee chairwoman and Lord Mayor Cllr Jos Clark to set up a task-and-finish group to assess the options.
Adam Postans, LDRS