Kent lorry park will not be ready for Brexit day after heavy rain
The Kent lorry park designed to relieve queues of up to 7,000 trucks taking goods across the Channel will not be ready for Brexit customs controls on 1 January, it has emerged.
Damian Green, the MP for Ashford, said the government told him rain had hampered work on the site between the villages of Sevington and Mersham, fuelling fears of traffic queues around the county for the first two months of the year.
“They’ve said it should be for a maximum of up to eight weeks from January – so it should be finished by the end of February – but they are committed to the Sevington site as the permanent base,” he told Kent Online.
The site was acquired by the government in July and is due to act as a holding pen for lorries queueing to get into Dover and possibly leaving the port and also to allow HM Revenue & Customs to conduct checks.
Green said another site would now be used. “Because of the rain, they are going to stand up the nearby Waterbrook site and operate it as a common transit convention site. HMRC activities that would’ve taken place at Sevington will be carried out there instead,” he said.
Heavy rain in recent weeks has meant a race against time to get the lorry park finished with work continuing round the clock.
The Department for Transport confirmed it will now switch the initial checks to Waterbrook.
The decision came as a third car company BMW, temporarily halted production ahead of Brexit, just weeks after Honda and Jaguar made similar moves.
It confirmed its Oxford factory stopped producing Minis on Friday for four weeks. But a spokesman said it was for general upgrade of the plant and not because of Brexit.
The company said it has had its Brexit contingencies in place for almost two years with more than 3m parts warehoused, enough for around a day and a half of production.
The northern end of the Sevington park was due to be used by HMRC with the southern part next to Mersham designed to hold up to 1,700 lorries in the event of gridlock at the port and Eurotunnel gateways in Dover and Folkestone.
“From 1 January customs checks on HGVs will be taking place at the Ashford Waterbrook site before permanently moving to the Sevington site in February 2021 if not before,” a spokesperson said.
“The Sevington site will open as planned on 1 January to manage traffic should there be disruption.”
Local residents have expressed concern about the increased noise, pollution and traffic.
Liz Wright, Green party councillor for the adjacent Willesborough ward, said: “We are not yet able to discover who is monitoring the pollution and the traffic. We are concerned because the pollution levels were already illegally high at junction 10.”