Before Brexit, the parking lot of discord in Kent

A view of the area near Sevington where the government is developing the 27-acre site near the town into a post-Brexit lorry park as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, in Ashford, Kent, England, Friday Oct. 23 , 2020. (Gareth Fuller / PA via AP)


Posted today at 02:09, updated at 16:32

High above the groves, St Mary raises her spire in the gloomy Sevington sky. With its gnarled wooden porch and the mossy gravestones that surround it, this little church in Kent County (south-eastern England) with Saxon origins would have made a perfect place for meditation on this mid-afternoon. November, had it not been for the continuous rumble of the M20 motorway, a vital artery connecting London to Folkestone (at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel) and which passes a few hundred meters below, and the intense activity of the construction site , just behind the parish enclosure.

This gigantic 11 hectare site, urgently acquired by the British government in July from an investment fund, will serve as a customs control center, when, at the end of the transition period, the 1er January 2021, the United Kingdom will exit the internal market and the European customs union.

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It is hard to believe that this parking lot will be ready on time, even if the backhoes activate there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., including on weekends. The ground is still muddy, and terraced in only a few places. On the side of the new motorway slip road which serves it directly (junction 10a), the entrances are already fitted out, wooden palisades and metal gates have been erected, and young trees have been planted. We can guess electrical installations, fuel pumps, but still no hard building to install customs officers or allow drivers to take a little rest.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, near the parking lot site, October 17, 2020.

“They cut all the hedges. The people who live there will only see trucks ”, sorry Sharon Swandale, pointing to the cottages bordering the west and south sides of the site. This resident of the neighboring village of Mersham is the spokesperson for the Village Alliance association, which fights to limit environmental pollution from the car park. Very involved, she toured the place to better explain to what extent the “Farage garage” (as some “anti-Brexit” qualify it, in reference to the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage) risks endangering a fragile ecosystem, a string of hamlets that have been able to withstand the intense urban pressure of a densely populated county.

Fight against fraud

Village Alliance has launched a petition – which has already collected 2,000 signatures – to demand that the upper part of the parking lot, to the northeast, be spared and serve as a “green belt” on the edge of Mersham. “From here, we can still hear the noises of the construction site, and even the vibrations on the ground that it causes”, Sharon emphasizes, skirting the area she hopes to preserve from trucks: old hedges, lush grass despite the fall and, in the distance, the spire of St Mary, which can still be seen.

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