By Paul Palmer

FOR Ken Pearce, a daily commute to work involves the usual bores: an early start, scraping the frost from the windscreen in winter, traffic jams and the knowledge he will have to repeat the trudge all over again later that day.

But there is an added complication: his office is north-west of London - and his family home is in north-west France.

Mr Pearce must rise before dawn in the village of Aubin-Saint-Vaast, dash 40 miles to the ferry, breakfast as he crosses the Channel and make the long haul up to his new business in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

It is a regular routine Kent county council and Eurotunnel would like to encourage. In an attempt to ease the housing crisis in south-east England, Kent has announced a plan to persuade Britons to move across the Channel and commute back. The council's Tory leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: "It would take the pressure off Kent. It would also encourage a flow of business people across the Channel.î

For Eurotunnel, there is another motive: it claims nearly 10,000 Brits need to move across the Channel to ensure a viable - and affordable - commuter service when the highspeed rail link on the British side finally opens in 2007.

Their plans are not as far-fetched as might first appear. Mr Pearce, 55, and his wife Irina, 50, left their Surrey-home two and a half years ago. Their reasons are shared by thousands of others who have made the break from England: "Traffic, too fast a pace, too much hassle,î says Mr Pearce. "I was born 200 yards from Waterloo station so I am a Londoner, but I'd never return.

"Now I can be at home, in a quiet village, with all the benefits of France, before some people have got off their commuter train in England.î

He is adamant commuting between two countries over a large stretch of water is viable. A former employee at Smithfield market, he is used to getting up in the middle of the night for work.

He needs to be: to get to his meat wholesale business by 5.30am, he must rise at 2am and catch the Eurostar or high-speed hovercraft around 3.30am.

"Yes, I get up very early but I will leave the office around 4pm and be back home, French time, by 9.30pm in time for dinner and a few glasses of wine,î he said.

Of course, it can - day-to-day - be an exhausting haul. But Mr Pearce says he has always needed little sleep. "I'm not sure I could do it for a very long period of time,î he says. "But because I want to be home in France for dinner, it's something I'm happy to do.î His wife Irina adds: "He misses me, so of course he wants to be home at night.î

In return, there is the lifestyle France allows. When the Pearces first bought their detached farmhouse in Aubin-Saint-Vaast it was an ivy-covered nearruin. But they paid only £67,000 for it and have so far spent £30,000 restoring it - while their former home in Surrey is now

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