County councillor says Manston Airport’s Brexit lorry park ‘not inevitable’

HGVs previously at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Additional reporting by Kathy Bailes

A highways boss has revealed the creation of a Brexit lorry park housing up to 4,000 HGVs at Manston Airport will ‘not be inevitable’.

Cllr Michael Payne (Con), cabinet member for transport at Kent County Council (KCC), indicated that negotiations around the use of the Manston Road site in Ramsgate had still not been finalised.

Talks are taking place to extend the deal for the Manston airport site to continue to be designated as a ‘EU exit’ lorry park until the end of June 2021.

A special development order allows use of the site to hold up to 6,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover. It currently runs until December 31 of this year.

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

HGV trial meeting at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

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.

The deal was then extended again 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.

However, this was only intended to function for a few months resulting in a sunset clause for the order to cease to have effect on December 31, 2020.

With the withdrawal agreement, which took effect from January 31 this year, and the end of the transition period for exit from the EU’s single market and customs union, new border arrangements need to be in place from January 1, 2021.

The negotiations to extend the use took place between RSP, SHP and the Department for Transport. SHP will continue to manage the operation if it goes live. The use has been agreed with RSP but The Department of Transport will now be carrying out studies on how traffic and the environment will be affected and will be inviting local feedback.

Cllr Payne’s comments came during a virtual meeting of KCC’s full council meeting, seven days after the publication of a council report listing Manston as one of five Kent custom checkpoints, managing around 7,000 lorries in Dover, Ebbsfleet and Ashford sites.

Cllr Payne said: “It is not necessarily inevitable that Manston airport will be used for Dover-bound freight.”

However, traffic management job vacancies for Manston are currently being advertised by Right Guard Security for “operatives to safely manage HGV movements across site.”

Concerns had been raised by Maidstone County Hall’s elected members about potential congestion on Kent roads, such as the M2, caused by a “procession” of lorries heading down the A299 to the Thanet site and the A2 Duke of York roundabout in Dover.

The former airport closed for business in 2014 but finds itself in a protracted dispute over its future after a ruling from Government in July, granting consent to create a freight hub at the site.

In August, HMRC – which runs deals with customs – announced its intention to use Manston to conduct checks on lorries diverted there. It forms part of the Government’s no-deal Brexit contingency plans if Whitehall fails to reach a deal with the European Union in December.

Cllr Barry Lewis

At full council today, Thanet county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) said he was “worried” about the plans with the land also being used for a Covid test site. He said: “I don’t think there is going to much social distancing in that area.”

The aim of the lorry park is to ease pressure on the Channel ports, but Dover county councillor Trevor Bond (Con) said the situation with Manston airport was “unbelievable” and could block traffic trying to get onto the A2 in Dover.

Concerned the issue was not addressed, he said: “We had a trial which most people thought interesting exercise but not reality and if Manston has to come in then the people of Deal and Sandwich are going to have a real problem.”

HGVs Photo Kent Police RPU

Swale Cllr Anthony Hook (Lib Dem) said he was anxious about disruption for Kent residents, notably the M2 at Junctions 5 and 6 near Sittingbourne and Faversham.

He said enforcement measures should be in place to stop HGV gridlock and traffic diverting through villages and towns.

Cllr Payne said there would be “regular patrols” on the motorway stretch carried out by Kent Police, DVSA and Highways England to ensure adequate enforcement is in place. Traffic on local roads will also be monitored closely. A report to councillors also suggests private contractors could be used to undertake this work rather than relying on the local police.

Covid test site at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

On Manston’s Covid testing, Cllr Payne said the site was on the opposite side of the proposed lorry park and should not interfere with the plans.

Cllr Payne said: “In the event that Manston is called in to use, all Dover-bound freight use of the M2 will be restricted to lane one use only. This will minimise impact on other users which will reduce the impact on surrounding roads.”

Other Kent Brexit lorry parks that have been confirmed include Ashford’s 27-acre plot at Sevington for 1,700 lorries, Ebbsfleet railway station’s car park D for 253 HGVs and Ashford Waterbrook.

Another is planned in Dover and will be ready for inbound custom checks from July 2021.


  1. What duplicity
    They are worried about a “short” term measure when they support a long term issue on those self same roads when they backed a cargo hub and allowed RSP to NOT pay for those needed road improvements
    Its a cargo HUB KCC how the heck do you think goods will be transported to and from that bloody Cargo hub. Electric barges perhaps

  2. Therefore as the deal for Manston Airport to continue to be used as a lorry park until June 30th 2021 has not been finalised, a report in a different regional and local printed paper is of course misleading. Well done I of T News for printing facts and not fiction.

  3. Great pity the DFT didn’t listen to comments from the DCO examiners and the planning inspectorate regarding how the badly roads would cope with thousands of lorries and fuel tankers needed to service a cargo hub at Manston and passed the DCO in spite of an overwhelming recommendations to refuse

  4. Well, I suppose they DID say it could become a “Freight hub”. It’s just that the freight will be carried on lorries , not on airplanes.
    The Manston “Farage garage”.

    • Keefogs, Nigel Farage did not back the airport at Manston but used it’s return as a vote winner.Chris Wells decided together with Nigel farage to change their mind in favour of the London overspill housing estate SHP proposed. Thanet council then forced Chris Well’s resignation and UKIP councillors became Independent.So it is a mistake to call the airport Farage’s Garage.The airport will hopefully become useful for freight with a small passenger facility. It will never be a huge cargo hub.I think the airport would be a great asset for this poor part of the South East.

  5. You can already see the flaws here. Next I suppose they will outsource the management of the traffic flow scheme to a consortium consisting of all the best firms in the UK,you know the ones: Govia Thames Link-Capita-G4S and Serco.
    Having not got a deal, the French fishing fleet will be permanently moored at Calais +Dunkirk.The lorry queue will extend to Birmingham and the Govt will be reduced to the RAF flying in emergency supplies to Manston,if there is any space on the tarmac.
    Meanwhile East Kent will starve to death and the local MPs will blame it on Andy Burnham. Trump will have invaded Canada.

  6. Freight hub or Brexit Park, they’ll both generate gridlock.

    Can we have an article on the housing slump due to the threat of the cargo hub please. It is real, and it is already happening and has been for some time.

    I think it is a key story.

    Thank you

  7. How can KKC have worries about the road infrastructure in SE kent ? Do they not know when manston airport opens they will be 1,000s of HGV and fuel tankers flying up our two lanes motorway. KCC need to have a chat with the government as they seem to think the infrastructure is fine at manston ! Lol what a joke and thats why manston wont open, no infrastructure.

    • Fuel will be brought to Ramsgate Port by electric barge, then conveyed by the new conveyor belt (shum mishtake, shurely) to Pegwell Bay, then pumped up *that* pipeline to Manston.

  8. A good use of local infrastructure.

    Looking forward to the airport re-opening and bringing much needed inward investment and jobs.

    • Three problems:
      1) the airport is unlikely to reopen;
      2) even if it did, few planes are ever likely to fly from it;
      3) even if they do, few jobs will actually be created.

  9. We drove past Manston airport on both sides today and there are thousands and thousands of cones from end to end ! It’s set up as a lorry park definitely !

  10. The A299 and M2 are dual carriageways and heavily congested already. Add Brexit lorries and you have gridlock – with stroke services being cut at QEQM, your life will be ticking away in the back of the ambulance. The additional lorry movements generated by a freight airport is unthinkable. That’s why a judge has granted a judicial review – join the ever-increasing number of people waking up to reality regarding Manston and contribute to the crowdfund. (If you are now about to take to the keyboard with abuse, be aware that I will screenshot and donate in your name.)

  11. I see you ‘Antis’ are trotting out the same old garbage as ever you did.
    Give it a rest for heaven’s sake. It will be a cargo hub and the local roads to the M2 are quite capable for that source of traffic.
    This topic is all about dealing with freight traffic bound for the Dover docks, a different thing entirely as it involves traffic from all over the UK heading for that port.
    Stop confusing the two different things to fit your pathetic narrative.
    Manston WILL reopen as a freight hub, and successfully.

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