‘No deal Brexit’ lorry park plans for Manston ‘stepped down’ as government expects to seal EU withdrawal agreement

HGVs previously at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

Lorry park plans for the Manston airfield site have been ‘stepped down’ by the government following the majority MP vote in favour of the plans for the UK to leave the European Union on January 31.

Last January a special development order designating the Manston airport site for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post no-deal Brexit jams at the Port of Dover came into effect.

The order ‘augmented’ the deal to use Manston as a short-term solution for Operation Stack – the forerunner to Operation Brock – which was first struck with former site owners Stone Hill Park in August 2015 following a Summer of disruption due to French strikes and growing migrant camps in Calais.

The aim was to park lorries up at the site and so reduce pressure on the M20.

The new order extended the deal until December 31, 2020 with additions to allow work on the site to create a new access, add temporary hardstanding and modifications to the new entrance and create lining and signage.

Some £4.9million was earmarked to be spent on the work to increase capacity at the site to hold 6,000 – rather than the initial projection of 4,000 – lorries as part of Kent County Council and the Department of Transport’s Brexit contingency plans.

A lorry park trial took place last January.

The Manston site was first stood down in May following the coming – and going – of the original EU exit date of March 29, revised to April 12 and then extended until October 31.

Manston airport site Photo Swift Aerial Photography

It was announced Operation Brock – the Kent Brexit resilience plan which included a contraflow system on the M20 – would be activated on October 28. This was again stood down as yet another Brexit date came and went.

With MPs now backing the EU Withdrawal Bill in a vote last month the government says the prospect of a no deal Brexit has been put on the backburner.

This has resulted in the standing down of the M20 barrier and decommissioning of the M26 plans under Op Brock and the ‘stepping down’ of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer – the codename used by the UK Treasury for cross-government no deal Brexit contingency planning. These included the Manston lorry park proposal.

A Government spokesperson said: “In light of the successful vote at Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, we have decided to step down Government’s preparations for leaving the EU without a deal. We are confident that we will ratify the Brexit deal by 31 January.

HGV trial  at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

“This will allow Government to focus on the people’s priorities in 2020, including the NHS and levelling up innovation, infrastructure and opportunities across the country.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the operational phase of Yellowhammer will not be stood up in January; new spending to prepare for leaving the EU without a deal on January 31 would not be authorised; civil service staff will not be surged into no deal planning roles in order to be ready for  January 31 and plans to increase readiness for January would not be taken further.

HGV Brexit trial run Photo Kent Police RPU

A Highways England spokesperson said the key part of Operation Brock are being stood down but added: “Ensuring the smooth flow of traffic through Kent is a top priority and we are keeping the deployment of Operation Brock under continual review.

“We are in constant contact with the Government and our partners in Kent about when and how the Operation Brock barrier should be removed and will have more information soon.”

It is understood staff at the Manston site were notified of the operational decision on December 26 and were awaiting a final payment.

County coucillor Karen Constantine says she has been informed that 80 staff at Manston were stood down, “equating to a significant redundancy in Thanet.”

She emailed the two Thanet MPs and county council leader Roger Gough for confirmation and details of any planned action but says she had no response.

She added: “I am disappointed that KCC Leader Roger Gough didn’t get back to me, despite saying he would. We need KCC to lead on economic growth and that includes protecting existing employment opportunities.”


  1. Well, obviously the Government and Senior Civil Servants are confidant that their Brexit Deal is going to succeed ….
    It was right to have the contingency plans for the event of No Deal, but as that fear has passed, it’s only right that a stop is placed on the now unnecessary expenditure, as quickly as possible….The DCO Decision will be given in the next two weeks, That should give the green light to RSP to begin their redevelopment of the Airport…
    There is a lot to do, so hopefully the jobs that will be created will far exceed those now being lost..

    • it is confident: oddly a confidant is someone you hope keeps secrets for you. Oddly that is something SMAa isn’t good at bar disclosing their accounts and how much Freudmann gave you

    • “That should give the green light to RSP to begin their redevelopment of the Airport…” … *site*!!!
      Everyone knows that RSP just want to build houses. Lots of them. Aviation won’t give much return on investment, even in the long run. Houses are a sure fire winner.

    • Let’s hope there will be no green light. Aviation needs to be greatly reduced and so does car use. How can you support airport development, knowing what the damage to the environment (both local and global) would be?

  2. The operation to keep Manston available as an emergency lorry-park has employed 80 people. If you actually care about jobs I fail to see how you can dance around welcoming this decision. Unless the airport is reopened all you’ve achieved is to lose 80 jobs. Even if the airport were to reopne it will be some considerable time before it employs this number. In fact, as a freight depot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it run by the few dozen people needed to drive the machines.

  3. The whole thing is very strange. We always knew that there will be a “transition period” of around a year after Jan 31st so nothing much will happen immediately.So Manston would not have been needed to cope with huge lorry queues anyway. No doubt , it can be restarted if a “No deal” scenario crops up in a years time.
    But all this talk of not needing it because there won’t be a “No Deal” situation is either jumping the gun a bit, or it implies that Johnson intends to do such a sensible deal with the EU that our customs arrangements will be more or less the same. The same rules and regulations as we enjoyed in the EU. The ONLY way of avoiding the hold-ups at Dover, and the need for a huge lorry park at Manston, is to accept that we have to stick with the same old EU rules for customs and trade.If we don’t, there will be so much extra red-tape and paperwork to check at Dover and Calais, that the lorries will be stacked up for miles(or stacked up at Manston.)
    Now, that scenario, of accepting the same customs arrangements as before, has long been the aim of the Labour Party. Is this “standing down” of the Manston lorry park the first sign that Johnson, for all his nationalistic bluster, was just playing the tough guy to con his gullible supporters, whereas, all along, he knew that Brexit was a disaster waiting to happen. So he would have to agree to all kinds of humiliating climb-downs in negotiations with the EU to “manage the damage”.

    I wonder what Nigel Farage (Lord Farage of Trumpland as he will be known) is going to think of all this! And what will the Brextremists in Johnson’s Tory Party think about such a climb-down?

    Seat belts on, everybody, this is going to be a crazy ride!

  4. The world has moved on considerably since we were last outside the EU. For a start, paperwork is a thing of the past. Most freight is pre-checked before the lorry is sealed. Go to the borders of the EU. You won’t see huge queues of lorries. That’s not to say we won’t experience disruption; the French will see to that. We need to option of routing freight to non-French ports

  5. “Paperwork is a thing of the past”??? Except that KCC and the UK government organised a survey to assess the impact of “No Deal” and it included a minimum of two extra minutes per lorry to check the new forms that have to be provided. That is the basis of calculations for traffic queues. If the government and KCC did not think there would be delays, why would they spend a fortune on preparing Manston , or conducting convoy tests from Manston to Dover?

    As for blaming “the French” for any delays and problems, well, that is just preparing the population for the failures to come by blaming the foreigners again. The basis for Brexit!

  6. There are already delays at Dover, the like of which you don’t see anywhere else in Europe. And that’s *with* a customs union and so on. It can only get worse.
    Blame the French? Well, it makes a change from blaming the TCC!

  7. What on earth have the 80 people employed been doing on a daily basis? Apart from the initial setting up I can’t imagine they would have been fully occupied.

  8. Kent’s roadside cesspits, flytipped, littered, decaying and left unmaintained through two decades due to the recession and budget cuts or so they continue to claim. Yet, millions spent on this and the whole Brexit farce… for what? Thanks for allowing the miserable society and greedy to ruin the former asset which was the Garden of England.

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