An off-grid British community dubbed “van dwellers” have been barred from talking to local residents – and could even end up in prison.
Over the last few years, the group have been living in caravans, transits and horse boxes around Greenbank Cemetery in Bristol.
They claim to be doing so because they cannot afford to rent, and a legal loophole means as long as their vehicle has full tax and MOT, there is nothing the authorities can about it.
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However, those parked on Greenbank View have now been told they face fines or even prison if they talk to residents on the leafy streets surrounding the area.
The new rule is part of a series of measures issued at Bristol’s County Court following an application by Bristol City Council.
The council says it follows a rise in complaints of blocked pavements, fires, littering, human waste, obstruction of pavements, double parking and the rising number of vehicles.
Part of the ban includes '”contacting either directly or indirectly, any resident of Greenbank View by whatever means”.
Dexter Shallcross, 24, a sociology student at the University of the West of England, has lived on the street in his yellow Mercedez Benz Sprinter since September.
He said: “There is clearly high-level prejudice in the council.
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“They presume that rowdy behaviour, general drug use and disturbance must be the van people.
“I'm sure some cases are but not all of them.
“Although in some ways it’s a bit scruffy and not ideal, getting rid of us doesn’t stop addiction, it doesn’t stop homelessness and it doesn’t stop disturbances.”
And Mo Abdi, 24, a student, said: “Is this not a free country?
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“If I’m walking down the street and someone says ‘hello mate, you alright’ am I not going to say anything?
“If they evict everyone from here, where’s everyone going to go?
“With the cost of living crisis and everything, people are struggling to pay rent and gas and electricity.
“A lot of people can’t afford to live in a house or flat – where is the humanity?”
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said it has created “meanwhile sites” on unused council land where van dwellers can park.
But they are not big enough to cope with the influx.
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A spokesman said: “'The vehicle dwelling encampment policy allows us to take action in cases of anti-social behaviour while considering each situation on a case-by-case basis so, after carrying out welfare checks, we started legal action to move the vehicles on from this site.
“We want to balance the needs of everyone living in Bristol, both of those living in vehicles and residents so our approach must be compassionate and fair.
''The occupants of Greenbank View were previously offered 15 spaces at meanwhile sites but these were not taken up.
''There is now a high demand for places at our meanwhile sites, but they can still join the waiting list for a pitch.”
The order was passed on April 18 and will run until October.
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