Mike Little


Van dwelling in rural UK

Fuelled by a desire to break free from mortgages, rent and commuting;  searching for the simple life, in beaches and beauty spots  a largely invisible, group are houseless but not homeless. Adam Butterworth, 26, an aeronautical design consultant, and volunteer at the RNLI, decided to live in a van after falling foul of an unscrupulous landlord. He explained: “I was spending £900 a month, nearly half my wages, to rent a one room studio flat that was filled with damp and causing me respiratory problems.

“Circumstance is the biggest thing. If you can afford a massive house, you always will buy one.

“A van is the most attractive alternative to haemorrhaging money on negligent landlords that couldn’t care less.

Yet financial freedom came at cost: the cold. Despite installing a log burner, wall insulation and getting creative with duvets, he said that low night-time temperatures, especially during winter, were “challenging.”

Without electricity or the internet, the van had taught him to enjoy the simpler things in life. He described how of a summer’s evening he would park facing the South Downs and admire the view with a bottle of locally produced craft beer.

“Where we live, we are blessed with places to go,” he said.

Henry Shanks, another long-term van resident based in Henfield, echoed this when he said that one of the best things about van life was the “constant stimulation from new places. “When you have had enough of that spot, you can just pack up and move along.

“It avoids any kind of stagnation of life.”

Being a musician, the mobility of a van was “ideal” for his career. Clad in lineage oak, it had running water, a kitchen, solar panels, gas, charging batteries and even a piano.

He spent £3,500 refitting the vehicle.

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” /When asked if West Sussex was a proising area to live in a van , the answer was “yes and no.

While people were “generally friendly”, there “wasn’t much space to park [and the] infrastructure is not great, recreation spots do not have facilities, like taps, toilets and rubbish bins.”

He also cited new laws aimed to clamp down on illegal traveller sites as “making life difficult.”

In January 2021, the Home Office implemented new ‘anti-trespass’ legislation that can land those camping on private land with hefty fines of up to £2,500 and jail terms.

Growing tired of living with her parents, 25-year-old Laura Bates from Steyning was planning on buying a van to “pay her own way.”

While studying a master’s and working part-time at an engineering firm in Storrington, she explained that “financial reasons” had influenced this decision.

“Trying to rent, save for a mortgage and have any sort of life is pretty much impossible.”

A van was also seen as offering the chance to “declutter” and “simplify” her life.

She said: “we have so much stuff,

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UK Rural Homeless Rise 20% A Year

Homelessness in rural England is doubling every 3 years, according to  campaigners warning planning reforms are likely to worsen the situation. The sharp increase in demand as people flee the larger cities has worsened the situation.

The number of households categorised as homeless in rural local authorities in England rose to 19,975 – an increase of 115% from 2017 – according to the countryside charity CPRE, and the Rural Services Network, which represents many parish councils and other countryside organisations.

The rise in numbers of households owed homelessness relief by councils, according to government figures, has been greatest in the north-east and north-west of England but an increase has happened in all areas.

One woman  was forced to live in a horse box for a month when she lost her home. A nursing said she and her three children may have to wait up to five years for an affordable property.


Local authorities have predicted a potential reduction in affordable house construction by up to 50% under the government’s proposed alterations to the planning system

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said key workers were being priced out of rural areas by high rent in the private sector. “Tragically, rural homelessness continues to soar. Continuing to deregulate the planning system will only make this situation worse.

“Instead, investing in rural social housing now would deliver a boost to the economy at a time when this is so desperately needed. The evidence is crystal clear that this is the best way to provide affordable homes for rural communities – especially the key workers whom communities rely on now more than ever – while at the same time jump-starting the economy.”

The CPRE has calculated that at current social housing build rates it could take more than 150 years to clear rural housing waiting lists.

The Rural Services Network has said that changes set out in the government’s planning white paper would be catastrophic for the delivery of rural affordable housing. It argues that more rural affordable housing would boost the economy. It has forecast that for every 10 new affordable homes built the economy would be boosted by £1.4m, supporting 26 jobs and generating £250,000 in government revenue.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of the network, said: “The social case for affordable rural housing provision is undeniable and is at the heart of sustainable rural communities. Now the economic case for government investment in such housing is also firmly established, we call on the government to boost affordable rural housing supply in a clear win-win situation.”

The ministry of housing communities and local government was contacted

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