Dover Port delays among issues for town's voters

The owners of a mobility shop which is frequently affected by delays at Dover Port have called on political parties to address the issue in the upcoming general election.

Julie Wright says problems at border control has previously caused traffic gridlock which has a huge knock-on impact on residents and local businesses - including her shop, Clarkewrights Mobility.

There are fears things could get worse when the EU introduces a new border checks system in the autumn.

It’s just one of the issues voters have raised with the BBC when we spoke to people in the town ahead of the election.

Ms Wright travels to the mobility shop from her home nearby in St Margaret’s Bay, and she says the journey can be a struggle.

“We’ve had occasions where we can’t even get to work ourselves, so we can’t open," said Ms Wright, who runs the shop with her partner.

"And if we can get here and we do open, we sit here all day [with] no custom."

'We won’t survive'

Ms Wright says other local businesses and residents are “very worried” about plans for a new entry/exit system, due to be introduced by the EU at the UK’s ports in the autumn.

She said: “I think it’s going to slow things down even more. I understand it will potentially speed things up once everyone’s on the system, but I think initially it’s just going to get worse.

“We are a small business. Without our customers being able to get to us we won’t survive.”

She’s calling on the Government to address the issue after the election, saying a better solution is needed.

However, Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover told the BBC the entry/exit system was among the schemes designed to improve the flow of people and goods through Dover.

He said: “We’ve got a number of developments and projects under way that are designed to improve the way people and the way goods flow through the docks in a post-Brexit environment.

“We’re investing a lot of money right now in preparing for the introduction of the entry/exit system and we’ve got a medium-term project about reordering our controls.

“All of these are designed to make the flow through the port as good as it possibly can be.”

Voters go to the polls on 4th July in the general election.

The constituency of Dover and Deal is considered a bellwether, because for years voters have elected local MPs of the party which ends up in government.

At the White Cliffs Boxing Gym, one of the main concerns is the cost of living.

Amateur boxer Babatunde Duyile’s mother moved to Dover after finding housing costs were too high in Croydon, where he grew up.

'It's just so hard for everyone'

Mr Duyile says people are struggling in Dover too.

“Prices have gone up and wages haven’t really changed, so it’s just hard for everyone,” he said.

The owner of the gym, Jamie Maddocks, says “most of the kids” who use the gym can’t afford it.

But Mr Maddocks says he’s disillusioned with politics and isn’t likely to vote in July.

'They’re disconnected from people'

It’s a view echoed by Emma Norris. After finishing on the treadmill, she stops to chat:

“I used to really be into politics but since Covid I’ve completely shut off from it,” she says.

“I just feel like they’re so disconnected from the working people”.

The Dover constituency has been re-named as part of the wider boundary changes this year, to reflect the fact that it encompasses the neighbouring town of Deal.

Geographically they are only around eight miles apart, but the two towns have a very different feel.

The major difference in Deall is the incoming population from other towns and cities like London.

Gentrification has brought with it a thriving tourist industry, but it has pushed up house prices in the area too.

'We need more affordable housing'

At Deal Community Radio Station, DJ Lee Ackers tells us the area needs more affordable housing.

“Because the value of properties has increased extraordinarily it means that younger people who are on ordinary wages can’t get a foothold into the marketplace,” he said.

Back in Dover, we head to the Working Men's Club for the evening, where one key issue that looms large is immigration.

It is in this town that most migrants who cross the channel on small boats are brought to shore and processed.

While the days of boats landing on the beach are mostly over, most residents here have something to say on the matter.

'Handed on a plate'

Immigration is the main concern for lots of people locally, Ricky Peirce tells us, while waiting to start a pool game.

“I myself have been through hard times and I struggle to get anything," he said.

"And it kind of frustrates me that people come over and get it handed to them on a plate really."

But not everyone agrees. Local taxi driver, Fred Salter, is contracted to transport asylum seekers to other local authorities around the country.

He thinks people’s concerns about small boats are misplaced.

“These people didn’t ask to be born in the country that they were born in," he said.

"They didn’t ask to be in Afghanistan where girls and women don’t have any kind of life.

“I’ve got every sympathy for that kind of person”.

You can find a full list of candidates standing in Dover and Deal here.