Homeless charity bus fined £140
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.”