'Overtourism' causing free-for-all chaos in the Cotswolds as villagers put up with parking woes and abusive visitors


Overtourism is causing a “free-for-all chaos” in the Cotswolds as villagers constantly have to put up with clogged roads, abusive drivers exacerbated by a lack of parking for coaches. The picturesque countryside, towns and villages have long attracted visitors from far and wide.

But villagers in Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury are having to endure increasing problems and lack of parking - particularly for coaches. Bourton has been without coach spaces in the village centre since the Bourton Vale car park stopped taking such vehicles at the end of last year.

This means that coaches are parking on double yellow lines in Station Road, among other areas, to drop off and pick up visitors. The parish council has been calling for a traffic regulation order to effectively ban the vehicles from the village centre while a long term solution for coach parking is found.

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But that particular proposal has caused division between residents and some businesses who say they rely on trade from coach visitors. Cotswold District Councillor Jon Wareing (LD, Bourton Village), who is also on Bourton Parish Council, is among those particularly concerned about the current situation and has had residents reach out to them after

He tabled a motion earlier this month to get the parish council to accept there is a problem of over tourism in the village. But this was rejected by six votes to four with one abstention.

Bourton was busy with visitors on May 18
Bourton was busy with visitors on Ma7 18, like it is on many Saturdays -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

“As the tourism season ramps up, the inconsiderate behaviour of coach drivers continues to be reported by residents and business owners,” he said. “The free-for-all chaos that many of us anticipated on the issue of coaches arriving in a rural location with no managed facilities for coach parking provision and a village infrastructure ill-suited to this otherwise excellent mode of transport seems to be unfolding.

“If the parish council doesn’t accept that it has a problem in the parish, how can we expect to engage the attention of Cotswold District Council and Gloucestershire County Council in solutions that would make the experience of being a resident of Bourton, and of visiting Bourton, a better one?

His motion, which did not state any antipathy to tourism, was seconded by his Conservative district council colleague Len Wilkins who represents Bourton Vale. “It’s a clear example of democratically elected representatives united in responding to the concerns of residents as you could wish for,” he said.

The lack of dedicated coach parking spaces is causing traffic problems in Bourton
The lack of dedicated coach parking spaces is causing traffic problems in Bourton -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

“It was simply an acknowledgement that the first step in solving any problem is recognising that there is one and a principle by which solutions could be evaluated.”

Meanwhile residents in Bibury are also facing similar challenges in the village which is home to “the prettiest street in England”. Dozens of residents attended a public meeting organised by Cotswold MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown last Saturday (May 18).

Villagers have to wait until around 5.30pm to “get their village back” as that is when the tourists are gone. One resident told the meeting he was called a c*** by coach drivers after asking them to "please move because you're blocking the road".

"Bibury is not built in any way for these large coaches," he said. "It's just not the right place.

Dozens of residents attended a public meeting organised by Cotswold MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown last Saturday (May 18).
Dozens of residents attended a public meeting organised by Cotswold MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown last Saturday (May 18). -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

"Some time there is going to be a serious accident. It's a real issue. We are a real victim of over tourism and we are becoming the collateral damage and that is not right.

Sir Geoffrey said he is well aware of the problems Bibury is facing as it is a unique village and a magnet for people around the globe. “People want to come here and of course there’s only limited space for parking,” he said. “The problems are quite difficult but we will do our very best to see what solutions we can come up with.”

Mark Honeyball, a resident, told the meeting that he was physically assaulted by a visitor. The problems with parking and tourism in the village have quadrupled over the last five years, he said.

Sir Geoffrey said he is well aware of the problems Bibury is facing as it is a unique village and a magnet for people around the globe.
Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he is well aware of the problems Bibury is facing as it is a unique village and a magnet for people around the globe. -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

He said it has become a very emotive issue in the village. And people are parking on double yellows all over the village.

Philippa Curtis, another villager, said it is impossible now to walk along the pavement along the Street. “This is a rural village," she said.

"The number of people coming to the village is destroying the nature of that. “I feel very strongly about the coaches as they bring loads of people.

"The number of people coming to Bibury is destroying its rural nature"
"The number of people coming to Bibury is destroying its rural nature" -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

"The parking availability in the village was a natural containment which restricted the number of people who could come at any one time.

"If we are to preserve the rural nature of the village and for it to be a pleasant environment for both residents and visitors, we need to stop these very large volumes of people arriving at one time.

"We really should not be allowing any coaches to stop and discourage people in the village.”