County council urges use of Manston airport ‘lorry park’ and investment for ferry use at Ramsgate Port in preparation for Brexit

KCC leader Paul Carter says the Manston airport site and Ramsgate Port have a role to play after Brexit

Kent County Council is urging the Government to invest in the Port of Ramsgate and make more use of current lorry parking facilities at the Manston airport site as part of preparations for Brexit.

Leader of KCC Paul Carter says contingency plans must be put in place to minimise disruption on strategic routes through the county and that an alternative to Operation Stack must be found before new border and customs arrangements are introduced for the UK withdrawal from the European Union.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, the UK Government triggered Article 50 in March 2017, starting a two year negotiation on a Withdrawal Agreement. On March 29, 2019, the UK will leave the EU and all EU law will transpose into UK law.

KCC says that the withdrawal from the EU will impact on Kent businesses and its infrastructure.

Cllr Carter claims Kent faces an increased risk of ‘direct harm’ if the UK-EU negotiations do not allow for trade that is ‘as frictionless as possible’, as increased border and customs checks will have an impact on the Kent highway network.

In a report examining what preparations should be made KCC suggest contingency plans covering ports and highways infrastructure need to be in place to minimise the disruption of Kent residents and businesses.

Manston airport site

Manston airport site 

Regarding Operation Brock, the replacement to Operation Stack, the report urges the Government to consider making further resources available including the opportunity of additional TAP -Traffic Assessment Project which was introduced to hold port-bound lorries outside the town on the A20 to prevent queuing in central Dover  – on the A2 near Lydden and to exploit the Department for Transport’s (DfT) investment in Manston.

The report says: “KCC will continue to work with Highways England and the Department for Transport on their interim traffic management scheme and permanent solution, considering all available options.

“This should include the rapid deployment of an effective contra-flow system, maximising usage of all freight holding facilities both in and beyond Kent, and further testing of the Government’s previously developed contingency plan for holding freight traffic at the former Manston airport site.”

Last November a Government arrangement to use the  site as an emergency lorry park for Operation Stack was extended for two years, allowing it to be used for Stack (now Operation Brock) until  December 31, 2019.

In January this year The Isle of Thanet News exclusively revealed the emergency lorry park designation had cost the Department for Transport more than £5.7 million since 2015. The majority of the money was for site preparations. It has never been used for emergency lorry parking.

Ramsgate Port

Ramsgate Port

The report also calls for further investment at Ramsgate Port to equip it for larger ro-ro vessels.

The report says: “Whilst Dover will be the main focus for cross-Channel ‘Ro-Ro’ freight, KCC also recognises the potential for the Port of Ramsgate to provide additional resilience for ‘Ro-Ro’ freight traffic.

“Ramsgate has pre-existing ‘Ro-Ro’ berths and the c.£35m investment in the Ramsgate Harbour Approach tunnel in 2000 by KCC means that it has effective ingress/egress. With further investment to support dredging of the approach channel and a larger turning circle in the port, Ramsgate could accommodate larger ‘RoRo’ vessels providing further resilience for the county.”

Investment is also proposed for Sheerness port.

The KCC report adds: “Greater diversification of ‘Ro-Ro’ activity would enable greater resilience of cross channel ferry freight, help meet predicted growth in demand and mitigate potential delays for cross-channel operators if there are changes in border arrangements post-Brexit.

“The Government should consider investment into crucial infrastructure in light of the likely demands post-Brexit, and KCC will work with partners over the coming months to lobby Ministers.”


Last month Thanet council leader Bob Bayford said work on ferry operations is the priority for Ramsgate Port.

He said: “The right ferry operation under the right contract will start to plug the money pit that is currently Ramsgate Port.

“We want to do something about this and the quickest way is through a ferry operation. This would benefit Ramsgate and the whole of Thanet.”

Thanet council has been in talks with Seaborne freight and Belgian authorities about a Ramsgate- Ostend route. The service had been mooted to start in March but there has been no update on progress to date.

There has not been a cross-Channel operation at Ramsgate since the collapse of TransEuropa in 2013 which left Thanet council owed an unpaid debt of £3.4 million accrued by the ferry firm in port fees..

At present just one vessel has been identified as being capable of using Ramsgate’s ro-ro facilities due to the restricted size. This is the former Dover-Calais ferry MS Nord Pas de Calais.

Port deficit

Currently the port has a significant deficit. It has made losses of £20million since 2010, according to Thanet council’s statement of accounts for each financial year from 2010/11 to 2017/18.

The figures exclude £5million in live export compensation and £3.4million for bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries unpaid fees and charges.

Last year Thanet council said the figures included costs which are shared across other areas of the council for the running of its services, rather than being directly incurred in running the port.

This year the port recorded a loss of £1.8million. Expenditure amounted to £2.8 million and income was £1million.

According to figures provided by Thanet council to blogger Ian Driver just 44 vessels berthed at Ramsgate Port in  2017-18.  In 2016-17,  165 vessels berthed at the port, meaning there has been a 73% decrease in just one year.

Find the KCC ‘Brexit’ report here


  1. What is the matter with our Council and some people We need the Airport for freight! You have people moaning about a few plane they may come in at nighttime, moaning about the movement of lorry’s! What do you want a lorry park for there would be even more movement. Carter is off his rocker! Another sneaky idea of his and getting Bill Balford in kahoots. I am not saying no to the port we do not want a lorry park we need the Airport for Brexit for freight working with the port and we need both for employment and get Thanet thriving again. Clear off Carter your talking Rubbish.

    • Susan Pottle how right you are Mr Carter is not wanted in Maidstone let alone Thanet stop poking your nose into our Town and leave Manston alone it is our Airport not yours and better still get out of the Conservative party they dont even like you if they don’t tell you I will

    • What is absolutely clear is that we *don’t* need Manston for freight.
      Most freight goes in tge belly hold of passenger jets. Passenger services have proved time and time again not to work at Manston.
      There is plenty of spare capacity for dedicated freighters at established hubs such as East Midlands.
      Dedicated frigher is a declining marked, and has been for a decade.

  2. Before the EU was formed ports were hives of activity and supported many, many jobs in customs, security and freight handling. Brexit offers an opportunity to reinvigorate ports and provide well-paid jobs for local people

    • Dover still is a ” hives of activity”, supporting “many, many jobs in customs, security and freight handling”. What did for the other ports in the southeast was the opening of the Channel Tunnel. It’s got nothing to do with the EU or Brexit.

    • “Brexit” (whatever form it takes) might “re invigorate” Dover and other ports by creating jobs that don’t need doing. Lots of admin jobs , checking documents, searching for smuggled goods, parking control over lorries stacking up along the motorways etc. Why not set up a “border” around the M25 checking cars,lorries and documents on traffic entering and leaving London? Think of all those new jobs in customs admin. How about another “border” through the Midlands to stop northern or Scots refugees entering southern England? Yet more “security” jobs as well as back room computer roles. We could go on and on creating these hold-ups and boundaries to try to escape from the world outside. But we are running out of suitably qualified staff already and are having to import more and more people from beyond the shores of our little island. Oh dear! Which will it have to be?

  3. “We” clearly do not need the airport for freight as there is sufficient capacity elsewhere.

    KCC surely includes the whole of Kent.

    Manston is no longer an airport and the site is privately owned.

    • @Marva Rees
      “We” clearly do not need 2500 new houses; there are enough empty properties in Thanet to accomodate all those local people in need. It is the Tory “Government” who need the new houses, because of the lunatic policies of Thatcher, who repealed the Fair Rent Act, on the grounds that “Rents will find their own level”. They never will; as rents go up, they raise Freehold values. A high Freehold value demands a high rent, based on the “10-year Rule”. where an investor expects to see a return on investment within 10 years.

      • I don’t see the connection between not needing a local airport and not needing 2500 new houses. But if the local councils would publish details of local population projections, we would then know if the government’s proposed quota is too high, too low or just right.

        • Details of local population projections are useful-but only up to a point. Thanet is also a part of a bigger area ie Britain.So we would accept the need for extra houses for projected population movements into this region from elsewhere. Treating Thanet as a separate place, with no national or international connections or obligations , sounds a bit “Brexit” (or “Thexit”?), as if we could survive as a small, former island on the Kent coast and ignore the needs of the rest of the country. I worry that this “Brexit” type thinking is spreading down to local level, with people desperately trying to devise solutions to world problems by hiding behind borders hoping other people will go away. What next? A border round Broadstairs to stop Margate people moving in? “Broadexit”?

          • Keefogs is right. Thanet is no longer an island in any sense of the word. I didn’t mean to suggest that local population projections should not include inward migration to Thanet, as well as considering current local birthrates.

  4. Three of the above comments refer to, or speak to, Paul Carter in a very insulting way. I would like to know why. KCC’s recommendations seem quite reasonable.

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