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New Ashford International Truckstop to open next week as illegal parking on Henwood Industrial Estate continues


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Council bosses hope the opening of Europe’s largest truck stop in Ashford next week will put an end to illegal lorry parking in the town.

GSE Building & Civil Engineering Ltd has constructed the new Ashford International Truckstop on the Waterbrook Park estate in Sevington, creating enough space for up to 650 HGVs.

The new site has room for 650 lorries
The new site has room for 650 lorries

It is thought the arrival of the site, which has been built just a stone’s throw from the existing truck stop, will reduce pressure on other areas of the town, particularly the Henwood Industrial Estate.

Unlike other parts of Ashford including the Orbital Park, Henwood is not covered by legislation which allows Ashford Borough Council to clamp lorries parked illegally.

But the council's deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) thinks the opening of the Sevington facility will markedly improve HGV parking in the town.

“Without a doubt it should be transformational,” he said.

“There will be no need for lorries to park in Henwood, Cobbs Wood or anywhere else in Ashford.

Many lorry drivers have been parking up on the Henwood Industrial Estate at night
Many lorry drivers have been parking up on the Henwood Industrial Estate at night
Drivers using the new Ashford International Truckstop will have access to a range of facilities including a bar and gym
Drivers using the new Ashford International Truckstop will have access to a range of facilities including a bar and gym

“I don’t think the fee to stay at the lorry park will be detrimental; it is a much more amenable place to park than an industrial estate would be, with shower and eating facilities.”

At the current Ashford International Truckstop, HGV drivers are charged £32.50 for a stay of between two and 24 hours.

The existing 300-space site is earmarked for housing and will close when the new facility in Arrowhead Road opens to drivers on Tuesday.

Ashford MP Damian Green says he hopes the site will “very much alleviate the situation” at Henwood, where as many as 12 lorries a night have been spotted on the estate.

“Lorry drivers are saying there is nowhere to park but so there will be (when the new lorry park opens),” he said.

Ashford MP Damian Green will attend the official opening of the truck stop today
Ashford MP Damian Green will attend the official opening of the truck stop today
The new facility has been built on the Waterbrook Park estate in Sevington
The new facility has been built on the Waterbrook Park estate in Sevington

“It will hopefully attract more people into truck driving, supporting the thought that there will be a decent standard of comfort in the job.

“On one hand, some of them are doing it (parking on roads) to try and avoid parking charges and that’s not acceptable, but again on the whole you’ve got to provide places for them to park.”

Today, Mr Green will join Baroness Vere of Norbiton at the official opening of the new lorry park, which features a gym, coffee station and shop.

At the event, Cllr Bartlett says he will speak to Lady Vere – a Conservative frontbencher in the House of Lords and minister at the Department for Transport – about the Henwood parking issue.

As many as 12 lorries a night have been spotted on the Henwood estate
As many as 12 lorries a night have been spotted on the Henwood estate
Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) hopes to discuss two issues with Baroness Vere of Norbiton at the official opening of the site
Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) hopes to discuss two issues with Baroness Vere of Norbiton at the official opening of the site

He wants the clamping powers, where Ashford council can fine drivers £185, to be extended to the estate, which is home to the town’s fire station and scores of businesses.

“It’s a long-standing issue – there have been complaints about it since I became a councillor – but it has got worse recently,” Cllr Bartlett said.

“It wasn’t as bad last year but I think that was unique with the lockdown and goods not being moved around as much.

Council bosses want the clamping powers in Ashford to be extended
Council bosses want the clamping powers in Ashford to be extended

“As we have come out of lockdown, there have certainly been many more reports of lorries parking there.

“What I have been told is that some of the lorry drivers’ behaviour is anti-social and the people who work on the estate have to clean up the mess left behind when the lorries go.

“Not all the drivers are like it, but there have been lots of complaints about parking and the impact it has on the amenity of the area.”

Truckers can currently avoid the £185 clamp penalty on the Henwood estate – something council bosses want to change
Truckers can currently avoid the £185 clamp penalty on the Henwood estate – something council bosses want to change
The new truck stop will officially open today but the first lorry drivers won't start using it until Tuesday
The new truck stop will officially open today but the first lorry drivers won't start using it until Tuesday

Earlier this year, the site of the new truck stop was used by the government to deal with customs checks on hauliers and to ensure they had the correct documentation.

It was a stopgap after heavy rain delayed construction of the post-Brexit Sevington facility, but it cost the government millions in rent payments to GSE, the site’s owners.

On Saturday, a free public open day will be held at the site between 10am and 2pm.

Lorry drivers were left queueing in the rain when the government used the site for customs checks at the start of the year. Picture: Filip Bednarkiewicz
Lorry drivers were left queueing in the rain when the government used the site for customs checks at the start of the year. Picture: Filip Bednarkiewicz
Lorries packed into the site at the beginning of the year. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries packed into the site at the beginning of the year. Picture: Barry Goodwin

A vintage American truck will be on display, with face painting and an inflatable play area also on offer.

Away from the truck stop, Cllr Bartlett says he also hopes to talk to Lady Vere about the lack of signs to the Sevington Inland Border Facility, which has seen truckers ending up in Mersham and the surrounding area.

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