Original article from Kent Live
A new proposal for an HGV park on the M26 could ease the burden on Kent's streets, finally opening up more space for lorry drivers to park legally in the county.
Proposed by Moto Hospitality, the UK's biggest motorway service operator, the new rest stop would be built at junction 2A of the M26, and a public consultation has been launched on the plans.
The proposal launch comes after the Unite Union said that lorry parks and services in Kent had become "chronically overcrowded," as Kent has become the UK's post-Brexit trade gateway to the EU.
The lack of dedicated lorry parking has seen fury from local residents, as drivers have been forced to park overnight on double yellow lines, slip roads and petrol garage forecourts, to avoid driving for longer than they are legally allowed.
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The issue has been a source of conflict post-Brexit, as Kent County Council had been granted temporary increased powers to clamp and fine HGVs which parked illegally in order to deter freight disruptions to local residents.
However, lorry drivers and unions have argued that there is a gap between the needed infrastructure and the actual facilities available – meaning that for their own safety and workers' rights, they have been forced to park dangerously or illegally.
With Kent County Council currently consulting on whether to extend its powers to restrict HGV’s from parking on roads and laybys, a statement from Moto Hospitality said the issue needed to be "urgently addressed".
The new development, planned for the M26, just outside Wrotham, could finally see a resolution to the issue, would see £18 million invested into the new lorry park.
As well as the prospect of permanent jobs once the facility is open, it is envisaged that many more will be created in the local supply chain and during the construction phase.
Local residents will have the opportunity to have their say on the proposals until August 13 and a virtual feedback function can be found online, in addition to feedback forms being sent to the surrounding area by post.
Stuart Rose, Moto's Acquisitions Manager said, "These proposals will provide a much needed rest stop for HGV’s on what is a busy stretch of motorway and help to alleviate the issues experienced by local residents as a result of the current lack of facilities.
"In addition to providing an important piece of infrastructure to an area where the county council have already identified a need, the plans will bring new jobs and secure £18 million investment in the local economy.
"We are delighted to consult with residents in the surrounding area and look forward to hearing their thoughts on the plans.”
Members of the public can also leave feedback and find answers to their questions at the project’s website, which will be updated throughout the consultation process.