There has been a lot of controversy recently around van dwellers in Bristol that have set up home just around the corner from our house in Easton. Newspapers have whipped up hysteria in response to complaints from some local residents (I should add that many have no issue with it), and many questions have been raised. Should campervans be allowed to park long term on residential streets? Should van dwellers have to pay council tax?
I think there is another issue here that is not being addressed. The tens of thousands of campervans up and down the country that sit outside people’s houses for 48 weeks of the year or more. So many people seem to feel the need to own a campervan despite the huge costs associated with buying and maintaining them, and the fact that they spend so much time just clogging up city streets and annoying the neighbours.
By contrast, our campervan Bella is out for 26 weeks of the year. When we are not using her she is off on tours round Scotland, to weddings and festivals and on family camping trips. She’s maintained to a far higher standard than she would be if she was just for our own use and is therefore much more reliable.
We get it. Campervans are a lot of fun. They are a more enjoyable and comfortable way to camp, great if you’ve got kids, the only option in winter and they give you an amazing sense of freedom and the ability to roam and choose your own view every day. But you have to be using it a lot for it to make sense to have your own rather than renting whenever you need one.
As a society we need to shift our thinking away from our obsession with ownership. The ‘sharing economy’ has become a rather overused phrase but it is a rapidly growing sector. For example, our family hardly ever needs a car so we are signed up to our local car club – it seems more expensive for each individual use but of course we save hundreds if not thousands over the course of the year, plus it’s better for the environment and for our neighbours. We need to keep thinking about creative ways to make the most of our resources.
And those people living in their vans by the Greenbank cemetery? Well they are at least making full use of them and leaving a far smaller footprint than most of us.