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Lorry parking in Kent so bad Minister pledges Government action

4 min read

Faversham & Mid Kent MP Helen Whately writes following her debate this week on 'fly-parking by HGVs in Kent' in which the Roads Minister committed to 'a new survey of parking provision across the country'.

Lines of lorries stacked on the hard shoulder of slip roads are a common site in Kent. For years it’s been a concern, but worst fears were realised last year when Susan Mellor, a 74-year-old mother from Maidstone, died after her car crashed into a lorry illegally parked by the M20.

The growing economy has been a boost for the freight industry, but one downside of more trucks on the roads is more fly-parking – lorries parking in inappropriate, sometimes dangerous places. The Roads Minister John Hayes has pledged to take action, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

In my constituency, lorries fill every lay-by, line up on the hard shoulder of slip roads, crawl onto the verges of country lanes and tuck themselves away in housing estates. None of these places have facilities for drivers, so there’s littering and fouling of verges & hedges with human waste. Residents nearby are understandably upset, and it’s pretty bad for the drivers themselves.

Lorry parking is a problem in many parts of the UK, but Kent’s roads carry the lion’s share of the UK’s international road freight. That freight is worth £11.2 billion to the UK economy, so this is a national issue.

Increased freight volumes are one consequence of recent economic growth, with 10,500 lorries now crossing the channel daily. Quite simply, there aren’t enough places for them to park. A 2011 study into the shortfall of lorry parking in the South East found 590 vehicles had nowhere to go. Freight is expected to increase, so the situation will only get worse.

HGV drivers are required by law to rest every 4.5 hours; If time runs out and they can’t find a space, they park where they can. The situation in Calais has intensified the problem as lorry drivers are now avoiding stopping on the French side of the channel. Resolving that will help, but the underlying shortage of spaces will remain.

So more lorry parking spaces must be the first step. The Government has committed £250 million for a new lorry park near Folkestone, to provide a desperately needed alternative to closing the M20 for “Operation Stack” when there is disruption at the Channel. This will be an enormous relief for residents and businesses across Kent. To make the most this investment, there’s surely a strong case for making the lorry park available for overnight parking of HGVs outside of Operation Stack.

Along with making sure there are enough parking spaces for lorries, we need drivers to actually use them. Though lorry drivers report their frustration at the lack of parking and facilities, some may still be tempted to park-up on the roadside for convenience or to save money. This means we need effective enforcement and meaningful penalties. For instance, local authorities tell me they need the ability to enforce proper parking without an explosion of signs and yellow lines. The Police may need powers not just to move lorries on, but to make sure they go to an authorised location. There’s also the level of fines, and whether they need to be raised so that they can be an effective deterrent. At present, the penalty for parking on the hard-shoulder set at just £30, compared to £50 for driving for too many hours.

The Government is rightly planning to invest in the UK’s road infrastructure; as part of that, the need for roadside facilities and parking should be addressed. In the South East, with the Operation Stack lorry area and a new Lower Thames Crossing planned, it’s a particularly opportune moment to take a strategic view of the road network.

The message has been heard loud and clear by the Roads Minister, John Hayes. I was delighted that he committed to undertake a new survey of parking provision across the country during a debate I called in Parliament, saying: “I have decided today that, as a result of this debate, we will look at the issue afresh. We need to do a new study that takes account of the current circumstances and the distribution of supply and demand.”

He recognised the need for a strategic overview of our infrastructure: “As well as looking at the impact of Operation Stack, we will take account of projections of the growing use of the road network in Kent and elsewhere — this is not just an issue for Kent.” And he also pledged to do a lot more about litter. The Government has listened and is taking this problem seriously.

Fly-parking – and the underlying causes – has been overlooked for too long. Now that’s going to change.

Helen Whately is the Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent

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