The estate of Aycliffe, on the outskirts of the port of Dover, is on the frontline of the traffic chaos on the Dover’s A20. Separated from the queue of lorries by a flimsy sound wall and a sliver of overgrown verge, its residents are besieged by a relentless barrage of noise and air pollution, as well as mounting piles of litter and human faeces as trapped lorry drivers are forced to use the threshold between the main road and their homes as a toilet.
“This stretch of the A20 has probably become the longest urinal in the world,” says James, a 30-year-old volunteer at a local nature reserve, who has lived in Aycliffe for 16 years.
A cyclist and walker, James describes this corner of Kent as “one of the most famous and dramatic coastlines in the world with some truly outstanding views” but adds that the lorries, litter and “unsanitary behaviour of drivers” have blighted the area. “The litter never seems to be cleared,” he continues, “so it either stays for all to see or ends up being blown into local residents’ gardens and eventually the sea.” James says the litter includes tissues used for “sanitary purposes”. “It is absolutely disgusting,” he adds.
James lives on the Old Folkestone Road, a residential street of terraced houses that runs parallel to the A20. Here, residents describe suffering repeated headaches from the diesel fumes and increased cases of asthma and other respiratory disorders. Residents whose gardens back on to the A20 also complain of bottles of urine being thrown over the sound wall by lorry drivers. “It is just covered in litter,” says James and Joanne, who walk dogs on the estate, “and the dogs are going in there and coming out covered in human faeces.”
The drone of lorry engines which run all night despite being stationary and the blast of air horns are also a persistent nuisance. “It can be difficult to get a proper night’s sleep,” says James, whose family home is a stone’s throw from the pedestrian bridge over the A20. “There is a deep hum during the night, plus revving of engines and the inevitable beeping [of horns] in the small hours.”
A Facebook page set up by residents is filled with videos and recording of the cacophony of horns in the middle of the night and residents write angrily of children being woken up at all hours and missed working days because of the noise.
Danny, who has lived on the Old Folkestone Road for 12 years, says the horns start when a truck drives down the outside lane “and they all start alerting each other by using their horns. It can be extremely loud and is like a domino effect. The sound builds up rapidly.” His 10 year-old son is frequently woken by the noise, but he adds: “In the summer it keeps him awake at night ’cos you obviously have the windows open and it’s even louder then.”
A government petition has been lodged by the residents of Aycliffe to have the start of Dover TAP – the queueing system when the port is busy – moved further up the A20. But, with a “worst-case scenario” report written by the Home Office in September 2020 suggesting that “40 to 70% of trucks travelling to the EU might not be ready for new border controls” potentially causing “queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent” and delays of up to two days, there seems no reprieve in sight.
Dover TAP, a system of traffic flow into the port which begins at the roundabout leading to Aycliffe, was introduced in 2015. “It used to be only TAP Tuesday”, said one resident who did not want to give their name, “but now every day is a TAP day”.