Published: 10:00, 07 January 2021
| Updated: 14:58, 07 January 2021
Confused truckers trying to find a huge Brexit lorry park are getting lost in a nearby village - making houses shake and churning up grass verges.
Angry residents in Mersham near Ashford say they are living in a "total nightmare" as HGV drivers head to the 66-acre facility next to Junction 10a of the M20.
Hauliers arriving at the Eurotunnel terminal near Folkestone without a negative Covid-19 test result or valid Kent Access Permit are being directed to the Sevington site, which opened for the first time on Monday.
But since then, residents have been faced with dozens of lorries heading into Mersham as truckers try to find the controversial facility off the A2070 link road.
Kent County Council says it is "aware some drivers have become lost" and has "since put in additional signs", but anxious villagers say more action is "urgently needed".
Kingsford Street resident Linda Arthur says truckers have been driving at "considerable speed" down the dead-end lane.
"From early in the morning to late at night, they have been coming down the very narrow lane which has no pavement," she said.
"Some try to reverse out, realising they have made a mistake, but most continue.
"Occasionally two lorries meet and after a stand-off, one has to reverse, causing damage to the verges.
"Not only are they turning down Kingsford Street, they are trying to drive through the village and yesterday evening two Spanish lorries tried to pass each other on the sharp bend at the village shop and had to reverse."
On Tuesday, part of the village green off Oaklands became a churned-up mess as a lorry driver tried to reverse.
Mrs Arthur added: "Signs saying 'no HGVs' went up at about 1pm on Wednesday at the A20 junction with The Street and at the top of Kingsford Street, but at night either these are not visible or are being ignored, because lorries were still causing chaos yesterday evening in the centre of the village as they tried to turn around.
"Kingsford Street is a narrow lane, which is used by children on bicycles and ponies, we have walkers, joggers, cyclists and several residents on disabled scooters.
"Tragically, we have already seen the result of HGVs in difficulty on our lanes - this must stop before we have another tragedy.
"We need more signage urgently, which is lit at night and along the A20 and all approach roads."
Another Kingsford Street resident - Graeme Cook - says the situation is "very dangerous" and contacted Ashford MP Damian Green earlier this week to raise his concerns.
"Lorries at all hours are speeding down Kingsford Street - it's been a total nightmare," he said.
"Signs were put up but they are still being ignored at the entrance to Kingsford Street.
"Lorries were still coming down here at 1am - they make the house shake."
Mr Green replied to Mr Cook's email, saying he had been made aware of the "lost" lorries in Mersham and had "immediately got on to the Kent Resilience Forum, which is responsible for the organisation of the lorry park".
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) says he is "impressed with how well KCC has accommodated the government's demand to use the Sevington Inland Border Facility [IBF] as a Covid-19 site so quickly".
But he added: "There are issues with signage, because, for unknown reasons, drivers are trying to access the site through the (now closed) Highfield Lane.
"I asked for additional signage which was put out yesterday so the position should improve.
"So far there have been only seven postings on ABC's Brexit reporting app (www.ashford.gov.uk/Brexit) but it's really important to get the message out there to residents to use the website so resources can be deployed to deal with Brexit issues; ABC wants to see pictures of lorries going in the wrong direction towards Sevington IBF so the hauliers' head office can be contacted.
"There is little change to Church Road [on the other side of the Sevington site], lorries still use it to try and get to the lorry park via the back door, it is no more or less.
"It's noteworthy that the diversions on Bad Munstereifel Road have not been needed this far - I think that is because Boris agreed a tariff-free, quota-free deal, had quotas been imposed then it would be a big job to count the number of items permitted to imported to the UK from the EU, Waterbrook IBF would have been much busier... well done Boris!
"The UK and French government intended to review the need for Covid-19 testing yesterday but there have been no changes announced; I guess we will be living with these for the foreseeable future now we are in lockdown three."
The government had hoped it could hold up to 1,700 trucks on the Sevington site and use the land for customs checks from January 1.
But heavy rain has meant the checks are being carried out on a temporary facility at the nearby Waterbrook Park estate, with only part of the Sevington site currently available.
Mr Green told KentOnline on Monday: "They've not been able to lay enough tarmac; it's able to hold hundreds at the moment, rather than the full 1,700 they want there.
"They haven't got the full capacity ready yet, even for the emergency parking, because of the weather."