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Brexit minister Liz Truss asked to visit Mersham near Ashford as another truck gets stuck on way to lorry park at Sevington


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There are calls for the new Brexit minister Liz Truss to visit a village near Ashford where truckers keep getting lost on their way to a lorry park.

Since the 66-acre Sevington Inland Border Facility (IBF) opened almost a year ago, countless HGV drivers have been losing their way in Mersham and Sevington, blocking roads and tearing up verges.

This lorry was stuck in Mersham for 17 hours just before Christmas. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
This lorry was stuck in Mersham for 17 hours just before Christmas. Picture: Rupert Collingwood

At first it was because drivers were given the wrong postcode when they entered the UK, with the subsequent route sending them through the village, but this was corrected.

Now, a year later, while the situation has eased, truckers are still getting confused because of the lack of proper signs and outdated information.

The latest incident on Monday, December 20, saw a driver had to spend the night in his cabin waiting to be rescued after getting stuck in mud in The Street near Mersham Post Office.

Following the incident, Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) wrote to Ms Truss urging her to visit Mersham to see just how frustrating the situation is for residents.

Cllr Bartlett said: "At the council's joint transport board meeting last month, Kent County Council confirmed it had received funding from National Highways and the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out repairs and improvements to Kingsford Street in Mersham following problems.

Where the post-Brexit lorry park has been built; Mersham is to the right of the facility
Where the post-Brexit lorry park has been built; Mersham is to the right of the facility
Lost lorry drivers in Mersham last January
Lost lorry drivers in Mersham last January
New Brexit minister Liz Truss. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
New Brexit minister Liz Truss. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

"I have asked that this funding could be extended to the shop area, a damaged drop kerb on The Street and damage at the end of Old Rectory Close.

"Separately at the meeting, we agreed that the council should keep a log of lorry incidents for six months from January to June so we can build an argument for further action from the DfT and HMRC – which takes over responsibility for the IBF on January 1.

"We need evidence to present to Liz Truss."

Resident Rupert Collingwood was walking his dog when he saw the latest truck drive past his house and get into difficulty.

The 39-year-old said: "He had a car behind him and he got to the jackknife and I think he panicked and thought he didn't have any other choice and just bouldered onto the really muddy patch.

The lorry driver had to spend the night in Mersham. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
The lorry driver had to spend the night in Mersham. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
The truck got stuck on a muddy patch. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
The truck got stuck on a muddy patch. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
A JCB digger was used to pull the lorry clear. Picture: Rupert Collingwood
A JCB digger was used to pull the lorry clear. Picture: Rupert Collingwood

"He got back in the cab and he slammed it into reverse and the rear wheels spun so there was no way he was getting out."

The next morning, after about 17 hours, a JCB digger arrived to pull the lorry out and shortly after 8am, the driver was back on his way to the IBF.

Kingsford Street resident Linda Arthur says while the situation has improved, residents are hoping DfT and National Highways – formerly Highways England – will guarantee that permanent signage clearly directing drivers to the IBF will be installed on the M20 and Junction 10a early in 2022.

"We also need KCC to put up permanent signs on the A20 and at the entrances to Mersham and Kingsford Street," she said.

Linda Arthur feels more signs are needed. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Linda Arthur feels more signs are needed. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The Sevington Inland Border Facility has been open for almost a year. Picture: Chris Davey
The Sevington Inland Border Facility has been open for almost a year. Picture: Chris Davey

"These errant lorries pose a danger to residents and are ruining the village verges.

"We have waited a year since the opening of the IBF for any action."

But Cllr Bartlett says he doubts the signs will be installed that quickly as those in charge first need to decide what is happening at each IBF in Sevington and Dover so they get the wording right.

In response to the concerns, a DfT spokesman said officials are working to replace the temporary A-frame signs with permanent signage.

Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) lives close to the site in Sevington
Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) lives close to the site in Sevington
Part of the Mersham village green was churned up when a trucker tried to reverse in January. Picture: Cllr Paul Bartlett
Part of the Mersham village green was churned up when a trucker tried to reverse in January. Picture: Cllr Paul Bartlett
How the 66-acre facility looked in January 2021. Picture: Esprit Drone Services
How the 66-acre facility looked in January 2021. Picture: Esprit Drone Services

"We are fully committed to resolving the ongoing issue around lorry drivers getting lost in Mersham while attempting to locate Sevington IBF," she said.

"We have taken a number of steps to improve the situation including working with sat-nav companies to ensure mapping services are up to date, checking local road signs are clear and distributing a digital leaflet in 14 different languages via haulier organisations.

“These measures are already starting to have a positive impact and we will continue to work with local groups and representatives to alleviate the problem.”

  • Further lorry incidents in Mersham or Sevington should be reported to parkingcustomercare@ashford.gov.uk
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