Tory councillor claims Kent residents have been “oppressed” by some truckers

Tory councillor claims Kent residents have been “oppressed” by some truckers

The feud between the road transport industry and Kent County Council shows no signs of calming down – especially going by a recent email sent to retired lorry driver Sebastian Barrow by Councillor Seán Holden of the Conservative Party.

Replying to an email sent by Mr Barrow that fiercely criticised the council for its strict HGV parking ban and a lack of appropriate action over a period of decades, Councillor Seán Holden said that Kent’s residents “have been oppressed by the anti-social actions of some lorry drivers”.

Holden defended the council’s HGV parking ban, saying that some lorry drivers’ “intrusiveness” can make the lives of citizens in Kent “miserable”.

The Conservative councillor then alleged that some truckers in Kent “park at random in rural and urban laybys, run noisy refrigeration generators all night, strew the places with litter and use people’s gardens as toilets on a permanent basis with no consequence.”

When it came to the lack of quality and affordable parking facilities at Kent, councillor Holden said it was up to the road transport industry to pay up, and even accused HGV drivers of pocketing cash for overnight expenses:

That is a commercial operating cost the industry should be paying. It is not for Kent residents and taxpayers to have to bear the consequences of employers giving insufficient subsistence allowances to drivers. Many suspect, by the way, the real reason drivers park in laybys is so that they can keep the overnight money for themselves.

Despite lambasting lorry drivers earlier in his email, Holden said that himself and Kent County Council are not at “war with hauliers”:

I would like you to understand KCC is not at war with hauliers. It recognises their importance and where it can it seeks to make their lives easier – as it did when it provided stopping places, food and drink and toilets when the French president closed the Channel ports before Christmas.

The Chairman of Kent’s Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee then signed off by specifically highlighting foreign drivers while claiming truckers are dishing out anti-social abuse to residents in Kent:
What KCC is taking on is the anti-social abuse of our residents by some drivers (many of them foreign by the way) and we would hope that the industry would share that determination and want to work with us on it.

Although there are clearly some issues with littering from a minority of lorry drivers in Kent, which Mr Barrow admitted during an interview with Trans.INFO, many of our readers will understandably find Mr Holden’s comments deeply offensive.

For the benefit of context, as well as providing the bigger picture of the entire email exchange between Mr Barrow and Mr Holden, the two emails are included below in full.


Sebastian Barrow’s email to councillors and the Department for Transport (which was forwarded to Mr Holden)

Dear Mr Gibbens and Mr Shapps,

I am absolutely astounded that KCC have the absolute nerve to not only ask to extend this ban into West Kent but ask for it to become permanent as disclosed by KentOnline. We have not even got to the consultation date so how can this be allowed!! It also shows that KCC have really been hiding the real reasons for this Ban. Nothing whatsoever to do with the „post Brexit traffic management scheme,” but to do with, and I quote Cllr Brazier,  „It used to be the case that every lane, lay-by, nook and cranny was infested nightly with HGVs with all the deeply unpleasant consequences of their stopping over night.” A slight exaggeration if ever there was one. And he goes on to say „This (ban) has been needed for years. It’s brought tremendous relief to many residents. To relinquish the powers at the end of six months would be an unthinkably backward step.” This shows the true feelings of KCC to the haulage industry! And if it had been needed for years then why has absolutely nothing been done to improve the situation? Again, all talk and no action. And how many residents have had this tremendous relief? Again and again, it is all bluster with nothing to back up the quote.

We could quote from this KentOnline release all day but this is the situation as I see it, and probably many others. We have a KCC Transport Committee where I have yet to find 1 member who has any knowledge of the haulage industry. The Chair is so anti HGV it is unbelievable. This is the Councillor who allegedly wanted all HGVs to cease running in and out of Fridays Ltd, Cranbrook because of the location in the countryside. This business became Ltd in 1971, so had been there in previous years then the Councillor moves into the area and wants it to stop! We have other Councillors who allegedly have had a rocky past, to put it mildly, with suspensions and moves from jobs within KCC making up the Committee and not one has a clue about the transport industry. The one thing they oversee in their position!! There is not one Councillor on this Transport Committee that has a basic understanding of the regulations governing drivers’ hours and the costs involved in operating a 44tonne HGV. That in itself is unforgivable as it shows that this Committee is totally biased against the haulage industry and more concerned with appeasing their constituents in order to keep their seat!

We also have a Councillor who does not understand about the “night out allowance”.  This is an obligatory payment to any driver on a night out from his base/home. This payment is to basically buy meals, have showers and the like. NOT to pay the over-inflated parking charges on Services which could very quickly swallow up the night out payment for insecure parking and diabolical facilities in one go! Unlike Europe where almost all the parking is for free with excellent facilities! We have another Councillor who moved into a property opposite Grove Green Tesco which always had a night delivery. That was soon stopped and it makes me wonder just who do you think you all are? Talk about power going to your heads. „I am a Councillor and so will use my position to do what I like and sod the transport industry”. And being truthful, MPs are just as bad if not worse! I speak as I find and not afraid of bringing you all to task, for which I do not apologise.

So, we are still back in the situation whereby previous Governments and County Councils have totally failed the haulage industry by ignoring the simple fact that there are nowhere near enough parking spaces throughout the UK. And then blame the driver for this failure and the places where he has to park.  Yet again it is a lack of investment in the one industry this County and Country is totally reliant upon. And let us not forget that, as I have said before in other emails, lay-bys have been around a long time and if planners decide to build houses alongside roads and their lay-bys, then why blame the driver? Why are the lay-bys without rubbish bins which is the complete opposite of Europe? Oh yes, it all comes down to money! The more houses, the more rates into the coffers. The more rubbish bins mean more costs for emptying. It is a pitiful situation that has been allowed by you all to become worse and worse.

It would be nice to see KCC and Dft come and sit around the table with representatives from the transport industry to thrash this out, instead of riding rough shod over the driver who is just trying to do an honest day’s work!

Yours,

Sebastian Barrow.


Councillor Holden’s reply to Sebastian Barrow:

Dear Mr Barrow,

I would like to reassure you that protecting the quality of life of our residents who have been oppressed by the anti-social actions of some lorry drivers is not evidence that Kent County Council is hostile to the freight haulage industry as a whole.
It is not and it recognises the central role that industry plays in the import and export of goods into our country. How could it not do that when Dover and the Channel Tunnel are in the county?

Notwithstanding that, the county council has a duty to protect the people whom it represents from elements of an industry whose intrusiveness can make their lives miserable, continuously. We councillors don’t have to be experts in the haulage industry to understand the need to prevent the dire effects of it on the people to whom we are democratically answerable.

Your railing against the clamping regime in the eastern part of the county and the proposed permanent extension across the whole of Kent suggest you don’t believe there is a problem. The fact that since the beginning of the year KCC has clamped about 2,000 lorries parked where they shouldn’t have been is hard evidence of a problem. I hesitate to believe that you really think lorry drivers should be allowed to park at random in rural and urban laybys, run noisy refrigeration generators all night, strew the places with litter and use people’s gardens as toilets on a permanent basis with no consequence. Kent County Council certainly doesn’t believe that and I, as the chairman of the transport committee to whom you referred, am fully supportive of the action it is taking to prevent the harm it does to the quality of lives of our residents and I welcome the proposed extension to the rest of the county, as did members of the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee.

You seem to be justifying the action of these drivers on the basis that the charges are too high at the overnight stops. That is a commercial operating cost the industry should be paying. It is not for Kent residents and taxpayers to have to bear the consequences of employers giving insufficient subsistence allowances to drivers. Many suspect, by the way, the real reason drivers park in laybys is so that they can keep the overnight money for themselves.

You seem to suggest that KCC is to blame for the litter thrown down by overnighting drivers because it allegedly hasn’t provided enough bins. Firstly, the person responsible for litter is the person who drops it. Secondly the absence of bins is not a licence or an invitation to chuck garbage out of the window. Lorry drivers, like all members of the public, should take their rubbish home. There’s surely enough room in those cabs for a small bin or rubbish bag.

Touching your concern about the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee having no members with knowledge of the transport industry I believe there may actually be at least two and we are supported by very knowledgeable and experienced officers. But I suggest you have not quite understood the purpose of the committee and the Highways Department. It is not to regulate the haulage industry it is to maintain, manage and regulate our roads infrastructure on behalf of our residents. It’s to them we are answerable for how they are used. Those Kent taxpayers do actually subsidise the haulage industry because whatever charges and levies it pays, I believe they come nowhere near the cost of the damage HGVs do to the county’s roads, which residents pay through their Council Tax to repair.

I’ll finish on a personal note since I think you were referring to me when you claimed a councillor said lorries should „cease running in and out of Fridays Ltd, Cranbrook because of the location in the countryside.” I have never, ever said that. I am leading an informal HGV group of councillors, officers and others which is looking at how we could bring the London Lorry Scheme into Kent to get lorries out of lives as far as possible. We want to set strategic routes which avoid rural lanes and villages and town centres. It would be absolutely the intention to do this in consultation with the industry. The first thing we make clear in any discussion is that lorries engaged in local business and heavy agricultural vehicles would be exempt from restrictions. That would certainly include lorries running in and out of Fridays.

A lengthy answer to your lengthy complaint but I would like you to understand KCC is not at war with hauliers. It recognises their importance and where it can it seeks to make their lives easier – as it did when it provided stopping places, food and drink and toilets when the French president closed the Channel ports before Christmas.

What KCC is taking on is the anti-social abuse of our residents by some drivers (many of them foreign by the way) and we would hope that the industry would share that determination and want to work with us on it.

Seán Holden
County Councillor for Cranbrook,
Benenden, Frittenden, Hawkhurst,
Goudhurst, Sandhurst, Sissinghurst,
Chairman, Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee


Photo credit: N Chadwick / Geograph UK

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