Just when you thought the silly season was over
I’ve heard it all now. Last week a councillor at Dover District Council proposed a congestion charge of £1 for each heavy goods vehicle (HGV) using the port. The proposal was rejected, but the councillor whose idea it was is now considering putting it forward to be officially voted on. The rationale behind the proposal is to improve air quality at the port and its surrounding areas. This in spite of the fact that a recent survey had shown that pollution levels in Dover had actually improved! Now ask yourselves this. What does every port in the entire world have in common? Yes, you’ve got it. They are all, by definition, beside the sea. Where the air is cleaner and more bracing than that breathed in by those unfortunates who happen to live in inner cities.
There is another consideration. The town of Dover depends on its HGV traffic. Without it, it would struggle to support any kind of meaningful business. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Naturally, the road haulage trade associations are up in arms over the proposal. Both the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association have roundly condemned it using words such as “incredulity” and pointing out the damage it would cause to an industry which is already under margin and environmental pressures.
It’s not as if the HGVs have any option but to use the port. Dover isn’t the UK’s busiest port for no good reason. It’s not like London, where I live and where there is already a city centre congestion charge of £11.50. I have only twice paid this charge, both times unavoidably, as I choose not to do so, either by doing my personal shopping online or outside of central London or by using the London Underground. Such options are not available to the HGV operators using the Port of Dover.
Now, I’m not per se against environmental proposals to reduce inner city pollution. However, I do feel that this issue is becoming something of a cause celebre. As if we didn’t already have enough of those. But to make such a proposal affecting one of the UK’s major points of entry is nothing short of idiocy. Especially when, as I have said, the problem, if problem there is, appears to be imagined rather than borne out by facts.
Simon Duval Smith
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