North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has made a public apology after incorrectly stating that Manston airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners had not received any money from government in relation to the site’s use as a Brexit lorry park and that all monies had been paid to former owner Stone Hill Park.
The comment was made during a BBC Radio Kent interview earlier this month.
In fact RSP has received £8.5million from the Department of Transport in compensation for use of the site in relation to possible delay of works for an air freight hub – if a currently quashed development order granting that use is reissued.
Former owner SHP, which 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, has been awarded £3.2million under the extended contract.
Sir Roger said: “On February 15, I participated in a radio interview with BBC Radio Kent about the use of costs of Manston airport as a lorry park. In response to a question about the Government`s payment for these services I indicated that the owners of the airport were not receiving payment and that the monies paid were due to Stone Hill Park under the agreement of sale between SHP and the current owners, RiverOak Strategic Partnership.
“Having subsequently seen the Department for Transport`s response to a Freedom of Information request it is clear that the figures quoted, £8.5 million to the owner and £3.2 million to the operator, relate not as I had supposed to the totality of fees paid between 2015 and the present day but to a new contract commencing from January 1.
“I was therefore incorrect in saying that the fees were being paid not to RSP but to SHP and for that error I have unreservedly apologised.”
The contract extended a 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 4,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.
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.
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 that saw the enactment of Operation Brock (under Operation Fennell) – the updated version of lorry queuing system Operation Stack.
However, Operation Brock was only intended to function for a few months resulting in a sunset clause for the orders to cease to have effect on December 31, 2020.
With the end of the transition period for exit from the EU’s single market and customs union, new border arrangements had to be in place from January 1, this year, These included extending the use of the Manston site until the end of June.
Lorry parking at Manston became active prior to January 1 and had some 3,800 HGVs parked up after the French border was closed to UK travellers just before Christmas. The border reopened on December 23 but Manston was needed as a holding site for the backlog of thousands of trucks that had built up.
It has also being used for a pop up site to administer lateral flow covid tests to hauliers although HGV drivers spending less than 48 hours in the UK no longer require a covid test.
Lorry park costs
A Parliamentary question lodged by Broadstairs-born Lord Pendry last year asked how much had been spent on preparations for the Manston lorry park.
In answer Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “I can confirm that between August 2015 and June 2020, the Department of Transport has paid a total of £19.4million for the use of Manston airfield as a lorry park.
“DfT paid £10.3m as part of the EU Exit no deal preparation contingency planning and £9.1m for the use of Manston airfield for business as usual and Operation Stack.”
A statement from RSP says: “The Department for Transport has agreed to pay RSP compensation for the use of the Manston site as a post Brexit customs clearance post for the first six months of this year.
“ In addition, the DfT will pay a further amount to cover the cost of site reinstatement following their departure from Manston. The operation of the site during this period is in the hands of Manston’s former owners who have their own separate agreement with the DfT.
“All monies received from the DfT will be re-invested in the Manston project with the object of making up for time lost due to the DfT’s occupation.”