Representatives of local Parish Councils including Hollingbourne met today with Mr Matthew Scott, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner at the Sutton Road Headquarters of Kent Police to discuss local policing issues including the future costs of Operation Stack and general policing on the North Downs where night time attacks on livestock and hare coursing have happened frequently of late.
Hollingbourne is at Junction 8 of the M20 where the motorway is closed when Operation Stack is activated in order to park lorries that cannot get through Dover and the Channel Tunnel because of delays. In 2015 Operation Stack ran for 35 days and cost Kent Council tax-payers some £450,000 in policing costs. Mr Scott told the meeting that no central Government funding was available because the threshold of £3 million was not reached which would have equated to some 233 days for Operation Stack which in 2015 brought much of Kent to a standstill. When Operation Stack is actioned access to Hollingbourne is further restricted in addition to the rush hour traffic jams which block the Eyhorne Street Conservation Area.
Concern was expressed that Customs delays at Dover and the Channel after Brexit in March 2019 will increase the frequency of Operation Stack with Kent Council tax payers having to pay for the cost of policing to keep Kent moving. Mr Scott said he would be applying for some of £3 billion Government Brexit fund to cover additional policing costs caused by Brexit. The Port of Dover has publicly stated that the withdrawal from the Customs Union will lead to massive tailbacks on the M20 (and in France) because of the need for all vehicles to go through Customs. (*Details of research on this by Imperial College for BBC South East is reproduced at the bottom of the page).
Apart from Hollingbourne Parish Council, the Parish Councils of Frinsted, Stockbury, Bicknor, and Wychling were represented as well as the hamlet of Hucking. Mr Scott said that the it was intended that local PCSO’s would attend Parish Council Meetings at least every three months and that the number of Rural Crime Officers would be increased from 6 to 12 with the Kent Police having another 200 officers in total in post by March 2019.
Mr John Leigh Pemberton from the North Downs complained about the frequency of crime and that fact that some 120 farmers had met the previous night in Lenham to complain about the lack of policing on the North Downs. Representatives of other parishes on the North Downs voiced similar complaints.
Other issues aired at the meeting that was organised by local Maidstone Borough Councillor Patrik Garten included traffic and speeding issues on the A249 as well as the perceived lack of response to reported crimes. The new online crime reporting system is only monitored from 6am to 11pm. Mr Scott promised to consider all of these matters including the possibility of a 50mph speed limit on the A249.
Pictured below is Mr Scott (extreme right) and Councillor Patrik Garten (extreme left) with representatives of local Parish Councils.
*Research for BBC South East Inside Out programme in March 2018 concluded that the following traffic scenario was possible which would affect Hollingbourne which is 37 miles from Dover and 32 miles from Eurotunnel:
Imperial College London researchers found the current vehicle check time is about two minutes, which can lead to queues of almost 10 miles during peak times, between 16:00 and 19:00.
Queues on the M20 and A20 between Maidstone and Dover would reach 29.3 miles if checks took an average of four minutes, they found.
This would leave drivers waiting almost five hours on the route.
“An extra 10 miles concentrated on local streets resulting from motorway deadlock is entirely possible,” they added.
Figures were compiled using traffic simulations for the area, using data from official sources such as Highways England, the Department for Transport, the Port of Dover and maps.
The research also took into account different kinds of vehicles such as passenger vehicles, light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and coaches.
The university said it was not yet clear what part of the departure process contributed to check times, both now and in the future. The university said more research was planned, but also that the outcome of Brexit negotiations remained uncertain.
Additionally the university said that every extra minute at Dover or Eurotunnel Customs after Brexit could lead to an additional ten miles of traffic jams which could seriously affect access to Hollingbourne and local businesses including the three public houses.
Footnote: Hollingbourne Parish Council has been concerned for some time about the impact of regular Operation Stack on local traffic after Brexit and local KCC County Councillor Shellina Prendergast asked a question about this at the October 2017 monthly meeting of Kent County Council. It was agreed that the Council would ask the Secretary of State for Transport for an assurance that the movement of goods through Dover and Eurotunnel would be seamless after Brexit because of the likely impact of delays on Kent traffic. No assurance has been received.