Plea to Cameron from 'gridlocked' Kent small businesses

Sarah Poole
Image caption Sarah Poole said her business could not survive if Operation Stack carried on

Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to visit Kent to see the effect of the Calais chaos on small businesses in the county.

Sarah Poole, of Westenhanger Castle in Hythe, said her business had lost £30,000 from wedding and meeting cancellations due to Operation Stack.

"Our business cannot survive if this carries on," she told BBC South East debate Gridlock Kent.

Her comments came as 600 migrants got through the Eurotunnel fence overnight.

A total of 400 were pushed back through the barrier by security teams, 180 were removed from the secure area and 20 were detained, according to BBC reporter Amanda Kirton in Calais.

The ongoing situation in the French port involving migrants and striking ferry workers has led to Operation Stack being implemented on 29 days this summer.

'French problems'

Ms Poole's wedding and conference venue is just off the M20, where lorries unable to cross the English Channel are parked or "stacked".

"I urge the Prime Minister to come down to see our small businesses because it is us that is being affected," she said.

"We are bringing the economy out of recession, but you are putting us straight back in it.

"It's down to the French to sort out their own problems and us English to sort out the English side."

B&B owner Mark Walker said holidaymakers were no longer visiting Kent from the continent.

"They hear it is no longer the Garden of England - they hear it is the lorry park of England," he said.

Image caption KCC leader Paul Carter, the Green Party's Shahrar Ali, Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay and charity worker Maya Konforti formed the South East Today panel

No senior member of the government was available to attend Monday's debate.

But Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for Thanet South, said the impact of ferry worker strikes in Calais and migrants trying to enter the UK via the Channel Tunnel had been "unprecedented - complete chaos and disaster".

He said he had been in regular discussions with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

"I can assure you the government is trying to get to grips with this," he said.

"The ultimate solution is what is happening on the French side.

"We have got two of the most advanced nations on the planet - Britain and France. Are you telling me, seriously, that we can't defend a port?"

He said the British government would be spending money to make the Eurotunnel entrance in Calais more secure by Friday.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said Operation Stack was necessary and was likely to be implemented again.

He said logistics experts from the Ministry of Defence had been looking at three alternative sites to park lorries over the past three days "at David Cameron's insistence".

Sites put forward are at the disused Manston airport, Westenhanger and Ebbsfleet.

"It is for national government to fund the solution and it has got to be a top priority to keep the Queen's highway open in Kent at all times," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Operation Stack has closed the M20 for 26 days over the summer

David Cameron admitted on Friday that more work needed to be done to tackle the migrant crisis in Calais.

"We rule nothing out in taking action to deal with this very serious problem," he said.

"We are absolutely in it. We know it needs more work."

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