It has been another gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain – although sadly not gloomy enough for residents of Ashford, Kent.
After voting 59.4% to Leave in the referendum, Ashfordians have been rewarded with a light show. Alas, rather than fireworks celebrating our independence from the EU, the nightly display comes from harsh white lighting at the 66-acre Brexit lorry park in Sevington, dubbed the ‘Farage Garage’ by locals, which can be seen for miles across the county.
Resident Anita Adams called it “a monstrosity”, adding, “the site is situated at a high level so there is no getting away from it. Even changing the colour of the super-white lighting to a softer, more yellow lighting would help.
“Do they need so many lights? These lorry drivers are professionals – do the facilities have to be floodlit like Wembley Stadium?”
Local Mandy Rossi claimed the lights from the so-called Inland Border Facility, just off Junction 10a of the M20 and currently being used for Covid-19 testing as well as customs checks, were “hideously ugly”. She said: “It’s just this massive lit-up area. The lights can be seen for miles.”
Neither are likely to be reassured by local Conservative MP Damian Green’s response that “I’m afraid that with all lighting, it’s a balance between safety and wanting dark skies”.
Instead, Ashfordians are wondering why the hilltop site – which local gossip had claimed would be an Amazon plant, creating hundreds of new jobs as part of a Brexit dividend for the area – was chosen as the right place to put a floodlit lorry park in the first place.
Compounding the error is the fact that the government’s own website gave the wrong address for the IBF, sending drivers through the quiet village of Mersham instead. Reports followed of 30 lorries getting stuck and tearing up turf as they manoeuvred out.
The Department for Transport has refused to release the results of a study into the site’s environmental impact, and local councillor Paul Bartlett has claimed that being built only to DfT standards meant the development avoided scrutiny by Ashford Borough Council, which can impose stringent lighting regulations.
He led a public consultation into the plans last year – although work had already been going on for four months – but warned at the time: “It is not an opportunity for the Remainers to have a go at Brexit.”
Bartlett, a Tory who lives 25 yards away from the park, added of the latest controversy: “It’s actually a lot better since they switched off the lights at plot F, which is nearer to me.”
Not much comfort then to residents who live near plots A-E or to Ashfordians who voted Remain knowing this kind of chaos would ensue.
Or, of course, to the tens of thousands of local Leave voters who now know they have joined the ranks of those who were once conned, and now have been forgotten.