County transport chiefs say plans for a series of lorry parks in Kent depend on the government being prepared to make it unlawful for HGVs to park in laybys and residential roads.
Kent County Council has earmarked a number of potential sites for round-the-clock lorry parks but says they cannot be developed until ministers agree to a change in the law.
The council has launched a consultation over its Freight Action Plan, setting out a series of steps and policies it believes are essential if the county is to cope with a huge rise in HGV traffic.
Lorries parked up around Ashford. Picture: Gary Browne
A key element is creating at least three round-the-clock lorry parks to counter what has been dubbed “fly parking”.
Cllr Matthew Balfour, KCC cabinet member for transport, said it would be inappropriate to identify the possible sites until steps were taken to make it an offence to park in unauthorised places.
“I have asked the minister for a specific change in the law which says that HGVs over a certain weight should not be parked anywhere other than an authorised place for longer than a few minutes.”
“We are talking to the Department for Transport about getting the law changed to tackle illegal parking - then we will be able to make the commercial viability of lorry parks greater, which I hope will mean that we can get lorries off our village greens and laybys so they can go into secure lorry parks.”
However, he said the increase in freight traffic could potentially be checked by the Brexit decision.
“I don’t have a crystal ball particularly over negotiations about Europe but it may be that there will be less freight coming through Europe and it may be that we will be trading further afield.”
“A lot of the freight is “JIT” - just in time - using warehouses and distribution centres in France and Belgium - and if that changes and we have large ships coming into some of the new port facilities, certainly around the Thames, then that would be the structure but I don’t know what is going to happen.”
The scale of the problem of illegally parked HGVs was underlined by a survey carried out last September when over just three days officials recorded 1,973 lorries parked in side streets and residential areas.
Swale had the largest number - 352 - followed by Canterbury with 334 and Ashford with 320.