At the July meeting of the Hollingbourne Parish Council, local Kent County Councillor Shellina Prendergast was asked for the plans of Kent County Council in regard to Operation Stack after Brexit in March 2019 when there will be no Customs Union and each vehicle will have to be checked through Dover and the Channel Tunnel. Prior to the July meeting there had been national media reports of serious concern being expressed about the traffic delays in Kent following Brexit by the Port of Dover, the UK Chamber of Shipping representing the ferry operators, and the Road Haulage Association whose members include road transport companies.
In the past when there have been delays at the Channel ports and the Channel Tunnel Kent Police have instigated Operation Stack when the M20 is closed sometimes back to Hollingbourne at Junction 8 so that vehicles can be parked there. This causes traffic jams in Hollingbourne and across much of the rest of the County. Last week in an item on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme it was suggested that “traffic queues could go back as far as Newmarket” if the present number of vehicles continue to use Dover and the Channel Tunnel. According the AA, Dover is 128 miles from Newmarket.
After Brexit every vehicle will have to go through Customs and the present HMRC system was designed for 40 million movements a year and is handling 50 million. An upgrade is in development which might handle 100 million a year while the estimated number of transactions required will be 300 million a year. In any event there must be a human interaction every time and it appears that the system will not be good enough which is likely to result in traffic chaos in Kent.
Councillor Prendergast is unable to attend the September Parish Council Meeting and has sent the following notes including the fact that she has put down a question on the matter at the next KCC Meeting on 19th October. Please Read More for her message:-
You will be pleased to know that I have tabled a question for the next full Council Meeting at Kent County Council on this subject and with specific reference to the impacts on residents of Hollingbourne. The response will be provided by Mr. Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste. This meeting will be held in the Council Chamber at County Hall on Thursday 19th October commencing at 10am. I would be very grateful if you would promote this across the parish so that any interested residents can attend. Whilst I appreciate there is some very genuine and serious concern in the parish, I personally have not been contacted on this matter prior to and since my election to KCC by anyone other than Cllr. Cobbett and would not know how to contact concerned residents without your assistance. I also look forward to seeing many members of the Parish Council there.
Also at the July meeting, and in various emails, Cllr. Cobbett referred to the following(* see below):
- That during hustings in Hollingbourne in April 2016, Matthew Scott, now elected as Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, had vowed that he would campaign to ensure the financial burden of Operation Stack did not fall on the residents of Kent. I was not present at that meeting and cannot say with any certainty what the grounds for that pledge were based on. I am sure Matthew would be very happy to give his views on what progress he has made on this and suggest that you contact his office on 01622 677055 or at the following address:
Office of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner
Kent Police HQ
Maidstone ME15 9BZ
- Press speculation regarding implications of Brexit on our roads “if there is no Customs Union which would allow vehicles to pass unchecked by Customs”. This element forms part of the question I have put forward for County Council and I am confident that Mr. Balfour will respond as far as he is able to, bearing in mind that negotiations are being conducted at national level and are still at a very early stage. Speculation, and it is just speculation, also extends to whether there will be any scope for a transitional period to extend the Customs Union following March 2019, but our MP, Helen Whately – email@example.com – will undoubtedly be in a better position to advise on this matter and you may also wish to seek the views of the Rt. Hon. David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lorry Parking – Kent has a critical position in the country’s transport network as a key international corridor for freight and in seeking a solution to Operation Stack, KCC has worked with Highways England to deliver a Lorry Area for 3,600 HGVs. As Cllr. Cobbett points out, the proposal is currently subject to a Judicial Review and Highways England are not offering any comments whilst the legal process is underway. Alongside the support for a strategic lorry park, KCC is currently developing a strategy for a network of small lorry parks at suitable locations across Kent and a partnership approach with the Districts and the Police to address enforcement which will hopefully reduce unsafe parking and other types of anti-social behaviour. Further information can be found in the recently adopted Local Transport Plan 4: Delivering Growth with Gridlock (2016 – 2031) on kent.gov.uk/localtransportplan
I hope the above goes some way in addressing your questions from the July meeting – pending a full response from Matthew Balfour on 19th October.
- The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office has been reminded of this pledge but has not responded so far.
Pictured below is the traffic through Hollingbourne during a previous Operation Stack in 2015. It is possible that the situation could become worse after Brexit because of recent house building in the village and elsewhere in the locality.