'Caravan city' dwellers defy order to leave Bristol beauty spot - for now

It is thought that a number of the 800 caravans parked on Clifton and Durdham Downs have been 'abandoned
-Credit: (Image: © SWNS)


A group of 'van dwellers' ordered to pack up and leave a Bristol park have continued to defy Bristol City Council's departure notices - though some are thought to be departing soon. Notices attached to several of the 800 or so caravans parked in the leafy Downs area of the city stating the vehicles need to 'vacate the site within 14-days' have so far gone unheeded, though some members of the group have said they plan to move on this weekend.

The two-week deadline given by Bristol City Council passed on June 26 and many dwellers have remained in Clifton Down and Durdham Down, dubbed 'caravan city'. The initial enforcement notice, issued on June 12, stated that abandoned vehicles would also be removed amid fears of inappropriate disposal of human waste and threatened legal action if the vehicles did not move on.

Though some have refused to speak about whether they plan to leave or face legal proceedings, others have said they are staying put till next week, while others say they plan to uproot themselves today (Sunday, July 7). It is also thought that many of the vans have simply been abandoned.

Read more:

A 70-year-old retired van dweller, who goes by 'Gandy' admitted he doesn't know where they will move on to. He said: "I've lived in a van for seven years now and have lived on and off on the downs for at least four of those.

"But I will be moving on this weekend, of course I will. I don't know where I'll go - it doesn't matter really - but I do sort of agree with the notice because we don't really have any right to be here."

He continued: "We have the police here last week - telling us everybody has to go or our vehicles will be towed. To be honest - I think at least half, or more, of the caravans left now are abandoned or have just been left here for storage."

Paul, who withheld his surname, has lived on the Downs for two months but said he would be leaving this week. The 63-year-old who lived in his van for three years said: "Yeah, I'll be headed off later today.

"It's a shame really - I've enjoyed living here but it's not worth the hassle with the council and the police. I honestly don't know where I'll go at this point - I'm not working, I'm on a state pension, so that gives me some freedom but also, you know, it's not loads to live on.

"I love living in my van - I'll never move back to a house or flat - but it's a shame you know, some of the backlash we've faced."

Sign up to receive daily news updates and breaking news alerts straight to your inbox for free here.

A few are choosing to move this weekend after a parking suspension was put in place on Parrys Lane, which begins on Monday, July 8 and runs for one week. Bristol Pride Day, a festival with an expected turnout of 40,000 people, will take place on the nearby Clifton Down on Saturday, July 13. Many vans and caravans remain on the lane and nearby Saville Road, and though a large number look abandoned, some are still inhabited.

According to 2023 figures, Bristol is the most expensive place to live in Britain outside of London. It is thought the lack of affordable homes have forced hundreds of people to give up on conventional living and turn to a life on wheels. And, despite anger from some nearby residents - where houses can sell for millions, not all were supportive of the enforcement action.

Jenny Cross, a 71-year-old retiree who lives near Clifton Down said: "I don't really mine the vans to be honest. I sort of feel like there isn't enough accommodation in Bristol. Some people are forced to live in an alternative way, some people chose to live in an alternative way.

"Most of the vans aren't even opposite anyone's homes, they keep the area pretty tidy. I suppose you wouldn't want it to build up and up but really I don't think they're doing any harm. I disagree with the eviction notice if they haven't got anywhere else to go - I don't think it's fair."

Lisel, 48, who did not want to give her surname, said she didn't have a "massive objection" to the van dwellers but had concerns about rubbish left near the site. The therapist, who lives near Clifton Down said: "I've stopped walking my dog that way only because she ate some of the rubbish they've left out there before and it really worried me.

"I'm scared of what she might ear - there is a lot of rubbish near some of the vans. I don't have a massive objection to the people living there - but I think if the enforcement notice worked and the vans did leave, then I'd start walking that way with my dog again."

A Bristol City Council spokesperson previously said: "On June 12, the council’s Neighbourhood Enforcement Team visited the encampment on Parry’s Lane and Saville Road to conduct a welfare check and assessment following complaints received from residents and councillors.

"During this visit, a letter was issued to occupants requesting they vacate the land in the next 14 days. This letter is an informal request and offers the vehicle dwellers the opportunity to open a dialogue about the concerns we have raised.

"The Neighbourhood Enforcement Team remains in conversation with the occupants of the Parry’s Lane encampment and will revisit the area on June 26 to assess if further action, as a result of any vehicles remaining on site, is necessary."