These photos taken by Swift Aerial Photography show the extent of works being carried out at the Manston airport site in preparation to stack up to 6,000 lorries when (or if) the UK exits the European Union.
Some £4.9million of government funding is being spent to increase the capacity to hold 6,000 – rather than the initial projection of 4,000 – lorries.
The works include a new site access and temporary hardstanding and modifications to the new entrance, which was used during a trial run of less than 90 HGVs in January,
There will also be new lining and signing. Kent Fire Service has undertaken a fire risk assessment of the truck spacing.
The work is part of plans for Operation Brock – the updated version of lorry queuing system Operation Stack- which contains 5 phases for dealing with a backlog of HGVs. Phase 1 uses the A20 and Dover and Eurotunnel buffer zones, phase 2 is a contraflow system on the M20, phase 3 uses the A256 and sends up to 6,000 lorries to be parked up on the Manston airport site.
Phase 4 uses the M26 and phase 5 takes traffic out of the county.
The cash comes out of a £28.81million grant from the Department for Transport. Other work will include strengthening and resurfacing of key stretches of road on the A249, A256 and A299 with 300 gully strengthening orders in progress; seven lagoons on the Thanet Way or through Dover have been surveyed with work orders for enhanced maintenance in progress and pumps on the Thanet Way have been identified for servicing/ replacement and a full CCTV survey of the Thanet Way, which is prone to flooding, is underway. Road signs will also need to be put in place.
The work was due to be completed by March 29 – the initial date for Brexit although an an extension may be agreed following the Prime Minister’s request due to be made to the president of the European council this week – and KCC has applied for more government funding for further ‘post-Brexit’ preparations.
In January last 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.
The deal to use Manston as a short-term solution was first struck with site owners Stone Hill Park in August 2015 following a Summer of disruption 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. The government extended the deal in November 2017 to run until the end of 2019.
In January this year a special development order designating the Manston airport site for lorry park use came into effect. The order ‘augments’ the initial deal and extends it until December 31, 2020.
The site is currently the subject of hearings for a Development Consent Order by Riveroak Strategic Partners wic wants to create a cargo hub and associated business on the land.
However, the land is owned by Stone Hill Park which has submitted an application to Thanet council to create housing, leisure and infrastructure at the site.