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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Lack of Government Planning puts Kent at Risk

December 15, 2020 7:20 PM

The Government's failure to control numbers of lorries parked up in Kent could have serious consequences for Kent's residents and businesses

Welcome to Kent - Lorry ParkWe are now just two weeks before the end of the Brexit transition period. Regardless of whether the Government reaches any sort of trade deal with Europe, we know that both exporters and importers will be bogged down with time-consuming and costly bureaucracy following the Conservative Government's insistence on leaving the Customs Union.

Nonetheless, even at this late stage, the Government's preparations are not yet complete and remain untested.

The Government keeps pressing traders to get ready for the new regime. But hauliers and logistics experts continue to complain that the new regulations are either unclear or not finalised. And with the new computer programs untested, professionals on the ground are getting very concerned.

This has huge implications for Kent, the Gateway to Europe. According to the Government, in a 'reasonable worst-case scenario' roughly 7,000 Europe-bound lorries could be stuck in the county. Preparations are being made for handling over 8,000 lorries but we have now learnt that some of the new facilities, such as the lorry park at Sevington in Ashford, will not be ready in time.

Crucially, despite repeated requests to the Government, there are no arrangements in place to hold back lorries in other parts of the country once all available parking slots in Kent are full.

Ian ChittendenIan Chittenden, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Highways explained, "In the haulage industry any delays cost money. Hauliers purchase open tickets which allow them to take the next available ferry or train to Europe. Drivers will therefore be under pressure to get into the queues for Dover and the Channel Tunnel as soon as possible, even if the holding areas in Kent are already full.

"There is thus a serious risk that many of our major roads will become chocked with Europe-bound vehicles which would spill over to heavy congestion in several major towns. This will seriously disrupt normal daily activities such as getting to work, to school or to the shops. It could ultimately threaten the delivery of vital supplies such as foodstuffs, fuel and vital drugs.

"Kent is on the front line of Brexit. I hope there are no major problems in the coming months. But if there are, then they will be a result of the Government and Kent's Conservatives failing to understand and prepare for the consequences of Brexit."

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At last Thursday's County Council meeting, Ian Chittenden asked the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport the following question:

'In the haulage industry, time is money. Thus, drivers will always be under pressure to get into the queues for Dover and the Channel Tunnel as soon as possible, regardless of the numbers of lorries already stuck in Kent. The Government has stated that in a 'reasonable worst-case scenario,' roughly 7,000 Europe-bound lorries could be parked up in the county. Whilst the current plans have made provisions for slightly more capacity than this, it is clear that Kent's roads will quickly become gridlocked whenever the number of lorries queuing in the county exceeds this number.

Would the Cabinet Member please advise what steps the County Council is taking to ensure that the number of border-ready vehicles does not exceed this limit at any given time?'

The Cabinet Member replied as follows:

'Thank you for your question, Mr. Chittenden. Kent County Council (KCC) has continued to work with its partners through the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) to ensure that the Government is fully appraised of the concerns of the residents and businesses in Kent around the myriad of issues surrounding transition. As you state, the Government's reasonable worst-case scenario is for up to 7,000 Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) to be delayed in Kent for up to two days. Working with national Government, the multi-agency KRF has developed the Op Fennel Traffic Management Plan to deal with that number of HGVs.

KCC have, however, also been pressing the Government for their plans should this capacity in Kent be overwhelmed. Indeed the Leader wrote to Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on 13 November on this very matter.

The Government apparently has additional sites across the country on key north to south routes that can hold additional HGVs, and there will also be a national communications strategy asking freight to consider either using other ports or delaying their journey to Kent. There will also be close, daily working between the Government and our local intelligence sources to ensure there is shared knowledge about capacity levels.'