A proposed congestion charge on HGVs using the Port of Dover has been met with "incredulity" by the trade associations, which warned such a charge could jeopardise British trading relationships.

Dover District Council will propose a £1 charge on HGVs using the port at a meeting tonight (31 January), in order to improve air quality in the surrounding area.

An agenda for the meeting reveals a councillor will ask the question: "With increasing traffic on the Port of Dover starting to impact the air quality and roads surrounding Dover, would the Portfolio Holder for Access and Licensing be willing to consider working with relevant partners to introduce a congestion charge for all HGVs using the port, in order to use the levy collected to combat these issues?”

The RHA said its response to the proposal was one of incredulity, and chief executive Richard Burnett said: "This is a ridiculous idea. We are led to believe that the money raised will be used to regenerate Dover's town centre. But without HGVs, the town centre would struggle to support business of any size.

"These proposals amount to little more than Dover Council deciding to bite the hand that is, in effect, feeding it. Do they have plans to tax the town's other suppliers in the same way?"

Christopher Snelling, the FTA's head of UK policy, said the congestion charge would essentially be a tax on haulage businesses, which would end up hurting British trading relationships and pushing up the price of goods and services.

Snelling said the tax wouldn't improve air quality in and around the port but would be an unfair burden on "an industry already bearing the cost of cleaning up the nation's air".

He added: “HGV operators have already made huge strides in reducing emissions, with the latest generation of trucks 90% cleaner than those sold just five years ago.

"These innovations are beginning to have an impact on air quality and it is wrong to place the blame for pollution levels solely at the feet (or wheels) of freight vehicles."