Home­less char­ity bus fined £140

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News -

A CHAR­ITY bus which pro­vides mo­bile shel­ter for the home­less has been slapped with park­ing tick­ets twice in a week while help­ing rough sleep­ers in the Cotswolds.

The Big Yel­low Bus was con­verted at a cost of £30,000 and can ac­com­mo­date up to seven needy peo­ple in safety and warmth.

But vol­un­teer Gerry Watkins is fu­ri­ous af­ter the ve­hi­cle was hit with a fine while parked in a coach rest­ing area in Cirences­ter.

He said: “It’s un­be­liev­able, I thought it must have been some kind of silly joke.

“I am just try­ing to help peo­ple who are re­ally vul­ner­a­ble, and it’s left me feel­ing dis­il­lu­sioned, upset and an­gry.”

Gerry, 55, launched the pro­ject in June 2017 when he came up with the idea of shel­ter­ing the home­less dur­ing the win­ter months.

He raised enough money to pur­chase a £3,000 bus and started work to con­vert the ve­hi­cle in Jan­uary last year.

It was fit­ted with a kitchen, wooden bunk beds and a wood­burner to warm peo­ple who come in off the streets.

The bus is op­er­ated by a team of 40 vol­un­teers who take it in turns to man the ve­hi­cle, which parks in a coach rest­ing spot near a leisure cen­tre.

It picked up its first £70 fine on De­cem­ber 31 and was tick­eted again on Thurs­day, Jan­uary 3. The fines will be re­duced to £35 if paid within 14 days.

Gerry says he ob­tained per­mis­sion of the po­lice to park in the lay-by, but Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil is not happy about its prox­im­ity to the leisure cen­tre.

He added that the town’s po­lice of­fi­cers had even been known to pop in for a hot drink to warm up.

“I’ve been work­ing with the po­lice,” said Gerry. “They even popped into the bus for a cof­fee on Christ­mas Day, so it’s not like I’ve been do­ing any­thing without co-op­er­at­ing with the au­thor­i­ties.”

Gerry has con­tacted the coun­cil to ob­ject to the fines.

He added: “It was just some­one do­ing their job, but this is such a slap in the face.

“I have now got to spend valu­able time fight­ing this when I could be spend­ing time help­ing those who need help.

“If Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil don’t ap­pre­ci­ate what

I’m do­ing here then maybe I’ll just take the bus to Swin­don – I know I’ll be wel­come there,”

A Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil spokesper­son said they would be work­ing with Mr Watkins to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion.

“Where the bus is cur­rently parked blocks a des­ig­nated pub­lic bus stop pro­vided for the res­i­dents of Cirences­ter.

“We re­ceived a let­ter yes­ter­day dis­put­ing the fine and we will try to work with Mr Watkins to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion.”

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