Published: 07:45, 24 January 2020
| Updated: 12:28, 24 January 2020
A crackdown on lorry drivers travelling on Kent's rural roads and villages could be enforced by Kent County Council.
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Leeds residents at 'end of tether' over lorries
As the UK's gateway to Europe, KCC says hundreds of foreign lorry drivers travel on 'unsuitable' routes away from their prescribed journey on motorways and major roads, adding to demand, pollution and noise.
Consequently, the local highways authority plans to implement a trial area to the south of the County Town where lorries will be restricted. Those who disobey the rules will be fined.
But, concerns were today raised over the effectiveness of the enforcement measures, which will primarily target foreign lorry drivers.
Kent county councillor Rory Love (Con) told a meeting of the environment and transport committee yesterday: "I will reserve my judgement until I see this happen... how many foreign lorry drivers were exceeding speed limits on the M20 during Operation Brock and went unpunished?
"I welcome it, but we need robust procedures because many of the worst offenders appear to be foreign registered lorries."
Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab) also queried the likelihood that KCC would be able to enforce and fine drivers.
KCC officers said measures were in place to make it work, such as the hiring of enforcement officers and the use of high tech cameras to catch culprits.
Communication with European partners would also be crucial as member states of the European Union can track criminals and mark vehicles who leave Britain and head for neighbouring states, the committee was told.
Kent Police retains powers to fine HGV drivers travelling down 'unsuitable' roads, but KCC want to take control over enforcement because police resources are becoming overstretched and foreign drivers repeatedly ignore signs due to reliance on sat navs.
Cllr Sean Holden (Con), chairman of the committee, said he feels KCC should take a "significant lead" in extending the trial scheme across the UK.
He said: "It's a trial area for the whole county, not simply trying to solve the problem in Maidstone. We have to be county-minded because all our divisions have a problem with HGV movements."
KCC would follow the lorry control plan introduced by Leicestershire County Council in the 1990s and the London councils, principally to manage the environmental impact of HGV journeys in these areas.
Leicester's was initially successful due to support from police and trading standards, but has since petered out, according to KCC, while London legalisation enables high rates of penalty charges, up to £550 a driver.
The Department for Transport has been lobbied by KCC to grant the formal transfer of powers that would allow KCC to undertake direct enforcement.
A letter is expected to be sent to 10 Downing Street and a response is expected in early 2020.
More by this authorCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter