Overnight parking ban could be brought in on Bristol Downs to deter van dwellers

Francis Hawkins / SWNS.com
Anybody caught parking overnight on certain roads could be fined £500

An overnight parking ban could be brought in on the Downs in Bristol to deter the rising number of van dwellers staying there long term.

Advisers suggested that anybody caught parking overnight on certain roads could be fined £500 and any vans without a registration plate towed away.

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At least 60 vans are thought to be parked on the Downs long term, with people choosing to live on them for a variety of reasons. One reason is van dwellers have much cheaper living costs compared to people renting a house or flat, and rents in Bristol are rapidly increasing.

But local councillors say they receive lots of complaints about the vans, and some people want an “unadulterated” view of the large park in north Bristol. Banning overnight parking could encourage van dwellers to move elsewhere, according to the Downs Advisory Panel.

The parkland is run by the Downs committee, made up of Bristol councillors and members of the Society of Merchant Venturers. They agreed to set up a new advisory panel earlier this year, after complaints about a lack of democratic involvement in how the Downs are run.

Robert Westlake, chair of the new Downs Advisory Panel, told the committee they should ask Bristol City Council to consider a ban, during a public meeting on Monday, September 18. The ban would affect anyone parking on Circular Road or Ladies Mile from 1am to 4am.

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Mr Westlake said: “On the last count I did, there were over 60 [vans], and they’ve now spread onto Ladies Mile and Circular Road. This situation is likely to get even worse. The panel discussed that these areas could and should be reclaimed.”

A temporary total ban was recently in place during the Forwards Festival, which was held on the Downs at the start of September. But one concern about the idea is that the “draconian” ban would just move the van dwellers elsewhere in Bristol.

Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke, representing Clifton, said: “I would find it really very hard to just expel the problem elsewhere in other parts of the city. What we need to explore is meanwhile use of sites. We have van dwellers who have nowhere else to live, it’s a very complicated problem.

“I get these emails all the time from people who live adjacent to the Downs, because I represent them. I want to represent them and I want them to have what they want, which is a clear and unadulterated view of the Downs. But equally, in my heart, I do have a concern about just doing something which would be quite draconian, unless the city can find them somewhere else to go.”

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The Downs committee does not have the power to bring in a parking ban, but they could suggest the idea to the council, which does have the power as the highways authority. A traffic regulation order would have to be consulted on before any new ban is introduced.

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