Community News

Council looking at Northern Slopes as temporary site for vehicle dwellers

Image Ibolya Feher – PictureAid

Bristol City Council is looking for potential sites for vehicle dwellers across the city – one of which is on the Northern Slopes in Knowle West.

The council has been helping vehicle dwellers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, by finding additional living space and facilities in the city.

Community-led social enterprise Bristol Vehicles for Change and council housing teams have been co-managing two temporary sites for vehicle dwellers in Sea Mills and Hengrove.

The council says these sites “have offered people access to a safe living space during the outbreak, and access to vital facilities that some have found more difficult to access such as water, showers and waste facilities”.

But on 30 September, the temporary site at Sea Mills will be closing due to historic issues with flooding throughout the winter months.

Support has been offered by the council to secure alternative living space and help to tow vehicles to a new site.

The Hengrove location will continue to operate as a temporary site for vehicle dwellers and its capacity has been extended to offer safe living space and facilities for 30 vehicles.

The council is also looking at further options, one of which is the Knowle West site on Kingswear Road, which will see around 11 spaces available for vehicles, with social distancing measures in place and basic necessities such as waste disposal and clean water.

Kingswear Road on the Northern Slope which has been earmarked for a temporary site for vehicle dwellers.

The facilities offered will be based on direct feedback from the vehicle dwelling community and the site will be managed by the occupants themselves.

The council says local ward members and the Northern Slopes Initiative – a volunteer group which manages the nature reserve – have been consulted and notified of plans for the temporary site.

Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Homes, Cllr Helen Godwin, said: “Our Housing teams have worked proactively to make sure that some of our vehicle dwelling community can move safely to a new site and maintain access to necessities they need.

“The extra space at Hengrove will carry on offering that vital temporary support, and conversations with occupants will continue to make sure future housing options are reflective of their wants and needs.

“At a time of crisis, it’s important that we don’t leave pockets of our communities behind. I’m proud of the work the council and Vehicles for Change have done to make sure there are accessible options for our vehicle dwelling community.”

David, an occupant at the temporary site in Sea Mills said it has been: “A welcome refuge in a time of uncertainty and upheaval for everyone, particularly van dwellers.”

Another occupant Dan said: “I’m proud that Bristol Council reached out to us vehicle dwellers and recognised us as part of the community.”