Ashley Ward has a long history of offering refuge to many ‘socially marginal’ minority groups such as ‘travellers’ and ‘New Age Gypsies’. Some have been ‘resident’ before and since the infamous Battle of The Bean Field in June 1985 and are an integrated part of the community.
For many years this groups’ legal difficulties in the area were assisted by a specialist solicitor Brian Cox (now retired), an associate of Bobbetts Mackan Solicitors of Queens Square Clifton. Bobbetts still have Solicitors who do pro-bono work around civil liberties issues like travellers.
Living and working in a van is not illegal. Current road traffic regulations permit converted vans subject to weight and internal re-arrangements to be zero rated for Road Fund Duty and exempt from MOT regulations dependent on a ‘satisfactory’ mechanical inspection.
If a designated Living Van is seized it is effectively a ‘forcible eviction’ and should require a court order.
The Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLC) recognises the difficulties ‘travellers’ have with registered addresses and have posted the following advice isinresponse to a Freedom of Information Request made on July 9 2012
From: FOI, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, 13 July 2012
In recognition of the difficulties involved for some keepers, (for example, travellers) in providing a permanent address, DVLA will accept a care of address. This address may be a friend, doctor, hotel, hostel or similar providing the resident gives permission for the keeper of the vehicle to use the address. PO Box addresses are not accepted for individuals.
If the DVLA, a government agency, accepts a ‘care of address’ as a suitable registration address for travellers then so should Bristol City Council when considering permit allocations for their proposed Resident Parking Schemes (RPS).
This is a very valid point. The residents parking scheme will make it extremely difficult for travelling folk to park anywhere. It seems that this group of people are openly being penalised for the way they choose to live and it should not be so. People have the right to live how they like. Other people don’t like seeing homeless people on the streets but if the possibility of living in a van is taken away then some travellers will have no other option. It is time to stop ostracising people that are perceived to be on the outskirts of society just because of their choice of residence, and to start making Bristol a welsoming and easy place to live for everyone.