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Man drives across Channel to highlight dispute

Doug Hilton preparing to begin his successful trip. Picture: GRAHAM TUTTHILL
Doug Hilton preparing to begin his successful trip. Picture: GRAHAM TUTTHILL

TWO amphibious cars were driven across the Channel from Dover to Calais on Monday, setting a new record, and highlighting a dispute a Kent landowner has with the Environment Agency.

Doug Hilton, who runs the Buckland Lake Reserve on the Thames Estuary at Cliffe, near Rochester, wants to put clean soil in the lake to strengthen banks which support roads around the reserve.

But the Environment Agency is insisting on restrictions which mean Mr Hilton could be liable to pay Landfill Tax, and could cost him £2.5 million.

"When I took the reserve on five years ago I thought it would cost me £40,000. So far it has cost me £230,000," he said.

He has been in dispute with the agency for four years.

"I want a meeting with top agency executives to sort it out, but nothing has happened. If I was in France, there would be no problem."

So after staging a protest on Dover seafront on Monday morning with a manner calling for action, he set off for France, in an amphibious vehicle, a Dutton Commander, which he normally uses to get around his lake.

With him, driving an identical vehicle, was Tim Dutton, of Littlehampton, who manufactures the craft.

And attached to the top of Mr Hilton’s vehicle was Percy, a plastic goose. "I thought it appropriate that the ultimate amphibian should accompany us."

Mr Hilton said the only previous attempt by two cars to make such a crossing was in 1965 when one of them had to be towed ashore. He said he hoped to make it in five hours.

With pilot Lance Oram escorting them in a safety boat, Mr Hilton and Mr Dutton drove into the water from the slipway at Dover beach, and set off for France.

They drove ashore on Calais beach seven hours and nine minutes later.

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