WORKERS with a long commute are camping out in Gloucestershire instead of paying the cost of petrol to drive home for the night.
Campaigners claim high fuel prices are pushing some people to sleep in their cars as well to keep the cost down. Others are sleeping in caravans or even in tents.
Peter Rathbone, partner in Mayfield Park, Perrotts Brook, Cirencester, said, particularly in winter, some workers coming into the county bring their own caravans and stay for £15 a night or £90 a week.
"We tend to do more of it in winter and it helps to keep the numbers up," he said. "We have to treat them as seasonal – we have their credit card details and home address."
Thistledown Nympsfield campsite owner Richard Kelly, who charges £11 a night for a tent, including shower, echoed this. He said: "We are getting more inquiries about people wanting to stay under canvas.
"They want to stay somewhere cheap."
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust ranger Kevin Caster said they had people stopping overnight in the car parks of some of their 25 nature reserves in the county.
And Christians Against Poverty, which offers debt management advice in Cheltenham, said people in financial trouble can often take to their vehicles to escape being hounded by creditors.
Spokeswoman Marianne Clough, said:"We find there are people who are sleeping in their cars but generally they want to do that because they want to avoid trouble.
"We held a big sleep out in cars a few years ago to raise awareness of this issue, and it is not a pleasant experience."
Fair Fuel UK which campaigns about petrol prices, conducted a survey. It found one in 16 drivers in the UK had slept in their vehicles and three per cent of car owners had camped near work to avoid fuel costs.
Yesterday, some of the lowest prices of petrol in Cheltenham were Sainsbury's in Tewkesbury Road, which was 1.29p a litre for unleaded while Asda, in Hatherley Lane, was selling diesel 137.7p.
But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for drivers after Chancellor George Osborne scrapped the planned January 3p per litre rise in fuel duty in his Autumn Statement yesterday.
Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson welcomed the decision by the Government.
"I'm pleased that the Chancellor has listened to the representations which I and others have made to him" he said.
"Fuel duty is very high indeed, making our petrol and diesel very expensive, and this has a knock-on effect on personal and business budgets."
â Chancellor's Autumn Statement, page 10.