Risk to lives and serious fire incident fears raised over use of Manston as ‘Brexit’ lorry park

Brexit lorry park at Manston Photo Swift Aerial Photography

Major concerns have been raised about the impact on Thanet of the EU exit lorry park provision at the Manston airport site.

The deal with the Department of Transport for the site to continue to be designated as a ‘EU exit’ lorry park has been extended until the end of June 2021. After this it is expected that full custom controls will be in effect by July, negating the need for further use of the site,

A special development order allows use of the site as part of the Kent-wide Operation Fennel to hold up to 4,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.

Under the Operation Fennel plan, the A299, Manston and the A256 would be used to manage lorries heading for the Port of Dover if congestion builds up on the M20. This is as a result of the new border controls due to come in force at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

Issues raised were fears for the risk to lives because of a potential blocking of the road network to QEQM Hospital and to routes for Ashford hospital and the overwhelming of health services if a Covid outbreak occurred at the lorry park which can hold up to 4000 HGVs – equating to a possible 8,000 drivers.

Thanet council’s director of operational services, Gavin Waite, said if an outbreak of the virus did occur at the airfield site and lorry drivers need to self-isolate TDC would not be providing temporary accommodation. He added: “The district has seen significant increases, it has the third highest rates in the country, and this is having an impact, particularly on QEQM. An outbreak at Manston would have a significant impact on already stretched services.”

Fears that a fire incident could spread out of control were also aired by Cllr Paul Moore.

Cllr Moore revealed that contingency exercises at the Manston site showed the lorry parking is too close together, lanes are too narrow for emergency vehicles to turn and the turning circles also do not have enough space to turn safely.

Cllr Moore said: “Should there be an incident with a HGV the potential is that it will spread rapidly to adjoining vehicles.”

He said of the lack of turning space: “If there is a serious incident these things are time critical for us.”

Cllr Moore also revealed that there are issues with water supply with one exercise resulting in a 10 to 15 minute wait for water supply. He added that there was also the potential of the water aquifer at Manston being contaminated.

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We are working closely with partners within the Kent Resilience Forum and government departments to ensure all necessary safety measures are in place at Manston.

“We engaged in the planning process for the site, where we set out our expectations to site developers, and we are also working closely with the Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate, which has fire safety enforcement responsibility on site.

“As a fire and rescue service we have tried and tested plans in place which enables us to respond effectively to a wide range of scenarios, and we will continue to work with site developers to manage any risks.”

Traffic issues include the feared impact on the Minster and Sevenscore roundabouts and the Spitfire junction as well as non-HGV traffic being forced through Manston village,

The A299, with no hard shoulder, is likely to become log-jammed and backlogs could hinder the movement of supplies to local businesses and impact on commuters and tourists using the M2/A299 route.

There are also concerns over driver welfare at the site, what medical supplies are in place and how any antisocial behaviour might be controlled if drivers are confined to the site.

Vehicles could be held at Manston for up to 48 hours. Potential HGV movements have also been substantially increased in the latest plan from those envisaged in 2019 – doubling from 305,505 per year to 644,541.

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt and TDC chief executive Madeline Homer said a lack of information from government, including traffic flow proposals, was seriously hampering the ability to plan how to mitigate the effects on residents.

Cllr Everitt said: “Thanet council has never been in favour of this use of Manston airport because of concerns about the potential  impacts on the district. But it is not in our control, it is part of a national scheme.

“Our big issue is not being able to get detailed information that we require in order for us to understand the potential impacts on Thanet and communicate what we need to to residents and how to mitigate potential problems if they happen.

“We have been actively pressing for the information we need to assess and try to mitigate the risk to residents and our economy. I am reassured by the promise from the department that we will get it, but time is short. In particular we need to be clear that the plan will not detrimentally affect public health and safety at a critical time in combating the current public health emergency.

“We will continue to do everything we can to work collaboratively and play our part to support wider national efforts to minimise disruption to the UK, but we must also speak up for Thanet and do all we can to prevent our area becoming collateral damage if things go wrong.”

Speaking to the Department for Transport yesterday (November 24), Cllr Rick Everitt set out the particular issues for Thanet. A payment of £500,000 from central government has been promised to help Thanet with plans on how to reduce the impact on the isle.

Another trial of  Operation Fennel is due to take place on December 1.

Cllr Everitt added: “We will continue to share our concerns with Government ministers and departments, our MPs and the other agencies involved and hope that long awaited details will provide the reassurances so needed for local residents and businesses at such a critical time.”

Mr Waite said the concerns over the lorry park use had been raised since the first agreement under Operation Stack in 2015 was first struck with then-site owners Stone Hill Park  following a Summer of disruption due to French strikes and growing migrant camps in Calais.

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.

Worst case scenario fears are that up to half of HGVs might not be border ready with new documentation required, such as the Kent Access Permit.

This could result in maximum queues of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent and two-day delays.

Operation Fennell aims to mitigate this with inland Border Facilities (lorry parking) at Manston, Ebbsfleet and Sevington as well as three sites outside of Kent in Warrington, Birmingham and North Weald. There will also be 45 information and advice sites, primarily at service stations.

At Manston the 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.

HGV s at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

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, the DfT says there will be hot and cold running water, hand cleaning facilities and provision of drinking water.

The UNITE union says there needs to be clean toilets and washing facilities with hot and cold running water, the provision of hot food and areas for drivers to relax outside their lorries to combat the dangers of fatigue.

County councillor Karen Constantine added: “With a no deal Brexit looking more and more likely other key issues remain unanswered in relation to the Manston lorry park. We need to see the plan for an adequate number of decent, clean toilets and washing facilities, in the middle of a Pandemic this is especially important.

“However many lorries and drivers use the Manston lorry park they will all need to be accommodated and have access to these vital services. Drivers will also need adequate rest areas to prevent fatigue, and access to hot and cold food.

“So far the Government has only mentioned portaloos and hot and cold water on the Kent lorry park sites and the drivers trade union Unite believes that is entirely inadequate provision. I agree with them wholeheartedly. Many drivers work long unsociable hours delivering the vital goods that we all need. These lorry drivers are potentially being denied their basic rights. And their health is being needlessly put on the line. The Government are once again taking the hard work of many workers for granted.

“These plans lack detail, are unsustainable and are short term. The Government has had years to plan and has failed. I will continue to raise my concerns at KCC. We must do better than this to protect workers and our food and essentials supplies. This is a recipe for disaster.”


  1. All this fuss over Manston. What about the real issue that some of the public toilets have been shut and camper vans parking in Westgate Bay overnight? These are the main problems locally, not mass Thanet wide gridlock and a catastrophic impact on the QEQM. When will TDC start thinking of the incontinent?

  2. Just wait until the promised millions of passengers with their cars, with thousands of lorries taking freight to and from the thousands of flights, and the thousands of lorry loads of fuel needed to fill them, and the thousands of commuters for the tens of thousands of promised jobs – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!

  3. Surely there must be some legal responsibility for health & safety at the site – if emergency vehicles cannot access and the arrangements for splillage are half cock then the place cannot open?
    Let’s see what TDC do with the £500k that comes with this…..any guesses?

  4. Just another lot of moaners and scaremongers everything will be fine what’s the point of telling a lorry driver who is in a cab all day on his own that he will have to self isolate if he’s got covert symptoms he cant isolate any more than what they do already they’re not going to get out of there HGVs at Manston airport and start doing the hokey dokey.
    Let’s see the Airport back in operation ASAP.

  5. TDC always trying to stop any jobs or work in the area with bullshit scaremongering. So a driver is only going to be there for 48 hours but during that time is going to arrive, catch covid, get significantly ill and require hospitalization all in 48 hours is he? TDC really are a bunch of clueless fuckwits. I shake my head at their endless incompetence. There are literally miles of space on that runway and they are bitching about access. Utter incompetence from the hard left nutters of TDC. What an utter joke TDC.

  6. Can you imagine the furore, the outpouring of anger on these pages if TDC did nothing, and there was a fire, coincident with a CV outbreak, whilst heavy hydrocarbons were running into the aquifer?
    BTW: dont many of these concerns also apply were the airport ever to start again?

  7. Nice to see the level of debate is of a high order.
    TDC may be a lot of things and guilty of many omissions and poor commissions, but swearing at them is no answer.
    What they are getting at is how you get 8,000 trucks on and off site on a road infrastructure that dates from the 1960’s.Swearing or ignoring the question by calling everyone moaners,says more about those correspondents than their limited understanding of just about everything.
    Why is it that a strip of tarmac and a few sectional buildings can cause some to become expert lawyers,aviation experts,planners, and local govt experts, without out any qualifications or expertise, at a drop of a hat!
    I don’t know it mystifies me.

  8. Would like to say if water is a big problem then how could all those houses be built surely demand would be higher.

  9. Also why does cllr everitt look so silly in his pictures…or is he harry enfeilds double for nice but dim character

  10. Whether the lorries are there from Brexit or a cargo hub, it is the same thing. Gridlock. Pollution. Pressure on a traffic infrastructure unfit for purpose. Have a look at the DCO, plenty of people have made this point over and over and over.

    Where do the people of Thanet supposed these mystical cargo deliveries are to reach their final destination? Lorry. Road. See above.

    Manston DCO is based on flight volumes so large it would mean a plane over Ramsgate every 12 minutes, requiring far more lorries up there than anything Brexit related.

    Or will Tony have invented his electric barge/cargo unicorn by then?

    No deal Brexit is the least of Thanet’s worries. KCC and TDC should have thought about this in a more robust rejection of the DCO, this Brock issue just papers over the far bigger strategic issues at hand.

    • It is an airport – shortly to be returned to its rightful purpose! Still classed as such in the local plan,and incidentally in the terms of a recent DCO – that goes so far as defining a statute of law that states Manston has to be developed as an airport, and nothing else lol! Remember to wave to the pilots as the aircraft fly over in due course

  11. Leaving the EU means that there will be lots more customs paperwork unless the UK signs up to having more or less the same customs conditions that we had when EU members.
    But the extremist “Leavers” never want to admit that we were better off sharing the same rules and regulations.
    So we are going to be stuck with this for years unless :—-

    1) slowly but surely the haulage companies and the customs authorities start to ignore the new rules and just wave lorries and cars through, both ways. The frustrated Police may turn a blind eye. And so will local Councils who are bombarded with irate phone calls from residents stuck in traffic.
    2)With goods moving in either direction becoming too expensive due to new tariff charges, trade just reduces so that there are fewer lorries generally making the journey.
    3) Britain (or what is left of it once Scotland leaves and the north of Ireland reaches its own trading arrangements with the rest of Ireland) starts to re negotiate its relationship with the EU, possibly agreeing to share the same rules and regulations, maybe even participating in drawing up those rules and regulations by attending the European Parliament. I think this last option may well get under way within the next ten years.

    Lily-livered British politicians would have to insist that this was not a new move to join the EU again, just a “re adjustment” of trading arrangements. But it will have to be done!

    • The delay will come AFTER the final withdrawal. One study suggested an extra two minutes per lorry for checking if the documents are correct. Multiplied by the number of lorries ,that adds up to huge tail backs along the approach roads, hence the need for “Farage Garages” to hold them on big lorry parks awaiting permission to join convoys into Dover.
      Which is why there has been an attempt to isolate Kent by denying entry to the county to lorries that have not got compliant paperwork.
      But this does not seem to have been thought through so many vehicles will just head for the coast and the Police just don’t have the staff to stop many at random to turn them back over the borders into Sussex and Surrey etc
      I suggested earlier that the haulage companies and the customs authorities may just turn a blind eye to a lot of this stuff and hope that nobody creates a fuss.
      Last year, I travelled from France into Switzerland (Geneva) and ,later, into Switzerland, arriving by train in Zurich.
      On both occasions we just breezed through customs without even noticing that we were leaving the EU! Either Switzerland is sensible enough to marry-up their regulations with the EU (probably) or they have given up trying to pretend that there is a border there!
      We are regularly warned that haulage companies are just not ready for Brexit . Perhaps they hope that there will be another 6 month extension for adherence to EU rules for certain categories. So that Brexit doesn’t happen until about June 2021. Hardly “an over-ready deal”, more of a very slow cooker.

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