Our Van in the Middle of the Street: Exploring responses to urban dwellers amid the escalating housing crisis in Bristol

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


The proposed research is an empirical ethnography of an increasing number of Vehicle Dwellers (VDs), which could be considered to be a third generation of New Travellers (NTs). Recently, connections have been suggested linking this movement to unaffordable housing (e.g: Johnston, 2016; Nsubuga, 2016). I propose to research this movement empirically, in relation to the housing crisis, including responses from local authorities, and their impact. Existing theoretical frameworks regarding NTs will be developed and reformulated accordingly.

The following questions will be raised:
How do VDs identify themselves? Do they consider nomadism to be a part of their identity, or a matter of necessity?
To what extent is the housing crisis a motivating force - if it is at all?
How do local authorities respond to VDs? How does this shape the spatial practices of VDs?
Do city streets provide VDs with ideal spaces of tolerance and freedom?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1946658 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 31/10/2022 Rhiannon Craft
Description - There are significant connections between the New Traveller movement and many contemporary "vehicle dwellers."
- The vehicle dwelling community is incredibly diverse, with a variety of needs, wants and motivations.
- The changing (social, legal and economic) contexts in which different generations are/have been embedded have significantly impacted the shape and nature of this movement and the way/s in which it is/has been responded to. Following other research regarding social movements, this expresses the significance of context
- While the housing crisis has been found to be a huge factor, many vehicle dwellers/ New Travellers have also chosen their lifestyle to suit their cultural and/or economic needs (e.g. to carry out mobile occupations, to preserve cultural heritage).
- Much can be learned about the possibilities of social organisation by studying intentional (and unintentional) communities developed by vehicle dwellers/ New Travellers
- Policy changes in the UK and an unaccomodating planning system has driven a lot of New Travellers/ vehicle dwellers out of the UK. Many have moved to Spain and Portugal where land is more accessible, making new forms of community and housing more easy to materialise.
Exploitation Route As demonstrated already elsewhere on this submission, i have already used research evidence (from my own research and other publications in my field) to inform local authorities about their approach to policy. I have also used research evidence to support several funding applications, providing direct support to the community i am studying.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rhiannon_Craft
Description As mentioned elsewhere on this submission, my findings from my Msc Dissertation have already been embedded within other existing research and presented to policy makers.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Development of CIC Bristol Vehicles for Change
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Many members of the community have been very grateful to receive this service, as many people are unaware of how policy works or affects them. We have also effectively formalised a support network, which has made members of the community feel they have support. This has been particularly beneficial for those who have experienced the policy first hand, and have needed support and guidance. For example, we recently managed to help an encampment threatened with eviction negotiate with the council in order to stay where they are, which has saved them their home and mental health. By providing this bridge, it also means that the policy is being regulated from the ground by providing a voice for the people directly experiencing this policy. There were some elements of the policy being practiced that were not carried out correctly, so the Housing Minsiter and Enforcement officer were informed of this so that they could address problems with the enforcement process. The CIC also works with other organisations, such as Bristol GRT+ Voices, Stand Up Against Racism and Inequality and Friends, Families, and Travellers, to regulate discriminatory practice. We are still in the process of setting up alternative living spaces for this community but, if we succeed, this would be a huge step forward towards remedying a national shortage of authorised stopping places. Research in my field has repeatedly shown for a long time that this shortage has lead to an increase in unauthorised encampments, which cause tensions between communities and much displacement of vehicle dwelling communities. Bristol City Council found in 1998 that providing just one transit site saved them £180,000 per year. It is expected that we can also save the council significant costs when we have established new spaces like this. My own Msc research also revealed benefits experienced by vehicle dwellers on an authorised site. My research also revealed that findings from broader research regarding travelling communities is very much applicable to contemporary vehicle dwelling communities in Bristol. My role in the CIC has largely been to display research evidence in meetings, and also as an indicator of "social value" which has aided the application process for community-led housing funds and the CIC's business plan to present to the council in order to access land.
Description Research for Smart Communities: Evidence to Inform Independent Report Presented to Mendip Council (Data also to be used for thesis)
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/people-living-roadside-vulnerable-locations-371274...
Description (Forthcoming) Public Talk on Vehicle Dwelling and The Law @ The School of Activism (People's Republic of Stokes Croft, 07/04/2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have been invited to deliver a presentation on local and national policies affecting vehicle dwellers.

I was invited after the organiser of this event hosted one of our community meetings at the People's Republic of Stoke's Croft.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Community Meetings x 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We held 2 community meetings (24/10/2019 and 07/02/2020). In both meetings, i delivered short presentations regarding recent policy changes that impact members of the vehicle dwelling community. In total, 65 people attended both meetings: approx. 30 in one, 35 in another. (Bristol City Council estimate that about 200 people live in vehicles on the roadside in Bristol).

After presenting this, other members of CIC Bristol Vehicles for Change updated the community on progress liasing with authorities and other relevant organisations. The end of the meeting was then used to make action plans. Attendants (who are members of the community impacted by this policy) chose their areas of interest (e.g. managing enforcement, providing sites, alternative media production) and made action plans in small groups.

Since then, the CIC has grown. We have had new members join our steering group after these meetings who have begun to coordinate/help coordinate fundraisers, a community led housing project, the regulation of enforcement, and new sources of media to faciliate a voice for the community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020