The Department for Transport (DfT) has given Ashford Borough Council the green light to raise clamp release fees on HGVs by a whopping 275 per cent on a stretch of the A20 in Kent.

The fees have increased from £40 to £150 in the controversial six-mile ‘parking trials’ area between the Charing and Drovers roundabouts in Ashford.

The hike in costs required to release trucks that have been clamped by officers comes soon after DfT announced tighter overnight parking restrictions in the area between the hours of 8 pm and 7 am the following day.

Those found breaking the rules will receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and have their vehicle clamped “on the first and every subsequent occasion they park”, Ashford Borough Council said.

The clamp will be removed on payment of the PCN and a release fee.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) warned increased fines were not the solution to illegal truck parking in Kent, and said the problem will only be solved “when there are adequate clean and secure parking facilities for hard-working truck drivers”.

While the industry body said it appreciated the desire to ensure the scheme is fully funded, the association’s policy manager for the South East, Heidi Skinner, labelled this sudden fine increase as “poorly planned and disproportionate”.

“We are shocked by Ashford Borough Council’s decision to increase fines in this way with so little warning or consultation,” she said. “The clamping scheme has only been in place for a couple of months, so making such a dramatic increase so quickly and with very little warning is excessive.

“Truck drivers keep Britain trading by providing a public service, helping to keep all of us supplied with food and other goods. They shouldn’t be penalised in this way.

“FTA understands the concerns of Ashford residents, but nobody wants to spend the night parked in a layby or on the roadside; it’s unsanitary and in many cases unsafe for drivers who have valuable goods in their vehicles.

“Truck drivers are skilled professionals who are required by law to take regular breaks. The government and local authorities need to take action to ensure there are enough clean, secure facilities for them to park overnight before introducing such harsh penalties,” Skinner concluded.