The Department for Transport has laid out plans for use of the Manston airport site as a ‘EU exit’ inland border facility until June 2021 and is inviting public comment.
An extension of a current special development order (SDO) is currently going through necessary channels to allow use of the site to hold up to 4,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.
The SDO currently runs until December 31 of this year but will be extended until the end of June 2021.
The previous 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.
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.
This was part of the planning for a ‘no deal’ withdrawal last year that saw the enactment of Operation Brock (under Operation Fennell) – the updated version of lorry queuing system Operation Stack.
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.
New SDO legislation came into force on September 24 and a new planning submission is being made to extend use of the site by DfT for parking and processing of HGVs entering or exiting the UK. The SDO also allows for the provision of associated temporary facilities and infrastructure. The legislation specifies that the facilities must cease operation prior to 31 December 2025 although, based on current planning, the Manston Airport inland border facility would only operate until June 2021.
From January 1, 2021 new rules require additional customs and transit checks. Where there is no space at ports for new border infrastructure, the Government proposes to build new inland border facilities where these checks and other activities will take place. Manston is among seven sites earmarked for that use.
The majority of HGVs travelling to the site will approach from the A299 Thanet Way. There will be prominent road signage installed.
As the Manston Airport site has an existing temporary planning consent, the majority of construction work has already taken place and construction will be limited to works relating to the development of a new inspection shed and temporary staff welfare unit.
Site works are expected to start before the end of the year to allow for operational site testing to take place. The works include pre-operational checks and any necessary repairs to the drainage and the hardstanding area.
Temporary lighting will be installed.
DfT would have occupancy of the site alongside the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and site operator Stone Hill Park Limited (SHP) will have some small facilities onsite. Although SHP sold the airport site to Riveroak Strategic Partners in July 2019 the firm retains its contract, and payments, with the Department for Transport for use of the Manston site as a ‘Brexit’ lorry park and is responsible for providing equipment if the site is used for the parking up of HGVs.
The site will operate 24/7. Closed circuit television cameras are positioned across the site.
After entry HGVs will visit the Vehicle Entry Check Point before being directed to a space. Provision is being made for refrigerated vehicles by allowing driver access to ‘hook ups’ connected to generators. No idling will be permitted by refrigerated vehicles as engines of all stationary vehicles and auxiliary generators must be switched off while on site.
Where required, HGVs will undertake customs and transit checks. HGV drivers must remain on the site at all times. Once traffic congestion has cleared or when the customs checks have been completed, the HGVs will leave the site to continue on their journeys.
HGVs carrying hazardous cargoes will be segregated from other vehicles. Spill kits would be available and regular inspections of parked HGVs would be carried out. An emergency contingency plan would be developed and agreed with the emergency services and would include procedures to respond to a major chemical spill or tanker fire.
To limit risks from the Covid-19 virus, there will be hot and cold running water, hand cleaning facilities and provision of drinking water. The site has been designed taking social distancing into consideration.
Several other Kent sites are earmarked for post-single market use including Ebbsfleet International station which is expected to hold up to 80 lorries at a time and have a booking system implemented for slots.
Other customs sites will include a £45million lorry park on a 27-acre site off Junction 10a of the M20 in Sevington to hold up to 2,000 trucks.
The Dover-Calais crossing is used by about 10,000 lorries a day. The Guardian previously reported that confidential government documents warned of predicted queues of 7,000 lorries and two-day delays to cross into the EU.
The “reasonable worst-case scenario” report was drawn up by the Border and Protocol Delivery Group.
The Government intends to make use of a Kent Access Permit Scheme, a legal requirement for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes that are intending to travel outbound from the UK via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel. The service will issue a permit digitally to every HGV for which the required information has been successfully provided.
Comments on the inland border proposals can be made via the DfT website up until November 16.