New parking charges on the Downs in Bristol are being considered in a plan to drive away van dwellers from living on the roads throughout the parkland.
An estimated 60 vans are regularly parked on the roads around the Clifton Downs, home to people looking for a cheaper lifestyle amid Bristol’s soaring housing costs.
But the councillors and businessmen who oversee the parkland are considering options for how to move them on, due to safety concerns.
One plan would see pay-and-display parking charges brought onto all roads on the Downs, with a limit of two hours and a free 30-minute option. The Downs Committee will press Bristol City Council to consider introducing the charges.
The car park north of the old zoo will also see new parking charges introduced soon, to help pay for maintenance of the area.
During a Downs Committee meeting on Tuesday, 25 April, Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke, Lord Mayor and chair of the committee, said she was concerned about the safety of gas canisters used by many van dwellers, as well as pushing them to live elsewhere across Bristol.
She said: “There’s an issue with van dwellers there, but equally there’s an issue across the whole city with van dwellers.
"So a lot of things have to be looked at, like where else would van dwellers go? Should we also perhaps look at meanwhile sites that are available across the city?
“I don’t know who’s happy with the fact that we’ve got more and more van dwellers parking up there, being less and less safe. The last time I was up there, I saw so many gas canisters outside, and that just really did freak me out. There are concerns that there’s going to be a major fire up there one day.”
Before charges could be introduced on the roads through the Downs, the council would have to consult the public on a traffic regulation order. This would ultimately be up to the cabinet to decide.
Labour Cllr Kye Dudd, cabinet member for climate, ecology, waste and energy, said the council needed to make sure there are “enough appropriate places for people to go”.
He said: “There is a long-standing policy on van dwellers, some have legal protections, others not. From time to time new pressures crop up where you get a large concentration of van dwellers, and sometimes that includes behaviour that the council has to deal with.
“Some of them will be legally parked and correctly taxed, and because of the traffic regulations they’re allowed to park there. Others won’t be, and people are fined from time to time, but they just see it as a cost of living there.
“If you strengthen the parking restrictions, obviously those people are going to go somewhere else, aren’t they? We need to make sure that across the city we’ve got enough appropriate places for people to go. Because what might happen otherwise is that they’ll go and park on another street.”