A Government arrangement to use the former Manston airport site as an emergency lorry park for Operation Stack has so far cost more than £5.7 million.
The deal was first signed between owners Stone Hill Park and the Department for Transport to use the land in August 2015. A two year extension was agreed in November 2017, meaning the site can be used for Stack until December 31, 2019. The arrangement had been due to finish at the end of last month.
The government says the airport land will “continue to be used during severe cross-Channel disruption, helping to further reduce the impact on Kent,” following the collapse of plans for a lorry park at Stanford West, near Ashford.
A Freedom of Information request has now revealed that between August 2015 and December 2017, the Department for Transport paid Stone Hill Park £5,742,011 – despite never using the site.
Highways England is currently developing new plans for a permanent solution congestion on Kent roads caused by cross-channel disruption. The plans include finding a site for a permanent lorry park.
A consultation on those plans is set to take place this year, ahead of a planning application in 2019.
The deal to use Manston as a short-term solution was first struck with Stone Hill Park following a Summer of disruption in 2015 due to French strikes and growing migrant camps in Calais, with many attempts to illegally enter the UK through Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
The aim was to park lorries up at the site and so reduce pressure on the M20.
Work to prepare the site included fitting floodlighting and painting lines for parking HGVs up as well as adding toilets and shower blocks.
Stone Hill says the agreement is subject to review on a regular basis, most recently in November 2017.
Ray Mallon, spokesman for Stone Hill Park, said: “We were approached by the Department for Transport with a view to entering into a commercial agreement for our site to be used as an emergency lorry park.
“A significant amount was spent preparing the site for HGVs to park there, including works to the runway parking area, toilet facilities and security. We also have agreements with a number of companies to ensure we’re able to have the site ready to receive lorries within three hours of being notified.
“We have also ploughed money back into our development plans for the site. These plans – if granted planning consent – will deliver millions of pounds of private sector investment for Thanet that will dwarf anything we have received to date, including: three new schools; the first part of a new strategic road link to Westwood Cross; a hi-tech business park plus regionally significant sports, leisure and heritage attractions that will create jobs and boost the area’s economy.”