“Winter is coming and we will have to be roadside again” – Bristol Traveller site eviction

12 October 2023
Dovercourt Road

A decades-old New Traveller site in Bristol has been evicted - to make way for new homes...

Bristol City Council has evicted one hundred people from a New Traveller site earlier this week.

“We have made a real community on this site, we had to take in people from other sites that had been evicted over the past few months, this is why the site has so many people living on it,” said Lorna, a 30-year-old recycling consultant who lives at the site.

The Dovercourt Road site, located in Horfield in the north of Bristol, has been in use as a site for many Travellers since the 1990’s. Once an old depot, the site has been a home for over 100 people for the past year. The eviction comes alongside other evictions planned for some smaller sites in and around the city, enforced by Bristol City Council, but who have “transferred” the land to the housing development company Goram Homes.

“We have asked the council to let us stay until work is started on the site by Gorums Homes, but they didn’t listen to our pleas, and have not offered any alternative options,” added Lorna.

Dovercourt Road

Goram Homes have an agreement known as a land loan, which allows the housing corporation to loan the land from the council until they sell the properties they plan to build on the site. The council have not taken into account and disregarded that there are already a hundred people living on the land that need a safe place to call home.

“Knowing that winter is coming and we will have to be roadside again is worrying,” said Kate, another resident of the site. “Coming home from work and having the safety of the site is such a relief especially when winter can be harder,” added Kate.

Bristol has a large New Traveller community, and when the summer seasonal work slows down and the colder months move in, lots of Travellers move closer to towns and cities to find work.

Dovercourt Road

The local settled community have built a good relationship with the residents from the site. One of owners of a nearby corner shop spoke to me and told me of the kindness that they have felt from the Travellers on the site. “They have been really lovely people to have around, we have enjoyed them being in the area, and we are sad to see them go,” they said.

I asked Dav a tree surgeon who has lived on the site for a few months whether he thought there was anything in particular that the council could do to help the local Gypsy Roma and Traveller community. “The first thing they need to do is acknowledge us as part of the community here in Bristol, the council treat us as if we are outcasts, that we are not part of society,” said Dav. “They could let us stay here and we would thrive, the site could be turned into a beautiful thriving community space, we already built a communal kitchen, music studio, and workshop for vehicles in the outbuildings here, I’m really gutted to see it end.”

Dovercourt Road

Due to covid and the restrictions, Bristol City Council have had to create some more sites for the Gypsy Roma and Traveller community, however there still isn’t enough to make sure that all the people from the Travelling communities are sited up, and it’s disheartening to see such a large number of people being evicted just before the winter months set in. The biggest question for these Travellers was, when will Bristol City Council take us seriously, and when will they do more for us?

By Faye Freeman/TT News

(All photographs: Dovercourt Road New Traveller site, Bristol © Faye Freeman)