Lorry park at Manston airport site to be suspended

Manston at capacity in December Photo Frank Leppard

Services for for EU-bound HGVs at the Manston Airport site are being suspended.

From Sunday, March 21 freight heading for the Port of Dover will no longer be directed to attend the Department for Transport site at the airfield and it will no longer offer Covid-19 tests or customs checks for hauliers. This can be reactivated at short notice if necessary.

Manston lorry park Photo Frank Leppard

All HGVs will instead access the Operation Brock traffic management system between Junctions 8 and 9 on the M20 coastbound carriageway, with one lane being used for Eurotunnel and the other for the Port of Dover. Any HGVs that attempt to take an alternative route outside of Brock risk enforcement action being taken against them.

HGV drivers who require a Covid-19 test before leaving the UK are strongly encouraged to take one before entering Kent in order to avoid delays. Any that arrive without one will now be directed to a single facility at Sevington, near Ashford.

Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix of Kent Police, who is also the Chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, said: “Thanks to the hard work of all partners and those EU-bound motorists who have followed the requirements, there have been no significant traffic issues on Kent’s roads since the end of the EU transition period.

“The suspension of services at the former Manston Airport site is the first major step in what we all hope will be an eventual return to business as usual, as it means HGV traffic bound for the Port of Dover will now be able to take a more direct route along the M20 with easier access to the full range of services that will be provided at the Sevington Inland Border Facility.

“It is however important to note that Manston can be stood up again at short notice if necessary, and that the site was only ever planned to be used as a holding area for lorries in extreme circumstances – as was the case following the closure of the French border last December.

“The recent agreement between the UK and French governments that HGV drivers who spend less than 48 hours in the country no longer need a negative Covid-19 test result before entering France gave partners the opportunity to review the traffic management plan and agree that the suspension of services at Manston is a step in the right direction.

“I would like to reassure residents that while these changes may result in some local traffic disruption in the short term, we in the Kent Resilience Forum will continue to closely monitor freight volumes and remain committed to keeping Kent moving. I would also like to thank everyone for their patience as the country continues to adjust following the end of the EU transition period.”

A contract to use part of the Manston site as a lorry park was extended until the end of June 2021 in a deal made between landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners, former landowners but lorry site operators Stone Hill Park and the Department of Transport.

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  Stone Hill Park in August 2015.

Photo Louis Mclaren

The site came into use earlier than the planned January 1 date after the French government closed the border to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country shorty before Christmas over fears of the spreading ‘Kent’ variant of covid.

The move led to the site being parked up to capacity with a large backlog of HGVs on county roads. A sustained effort was launched to make sure drivers had access to food and facilities.

Photo Frank Leppard

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said:Thanks to the efforts of the haulage industry and partners, traffic continues to run smoothly through Kent, which is fantastic to see.

“The changes to the French protocol have meant that there’s a reduction in the number of hauliers who require testing, and as a result, we can reduce outbound haulier testing in Kent – helping minimise disruption to local residents.

Manston can be reactivated at short notice if any circumstances change, but I know the local community, which has worked so collaboratively with us during this time, will be pleased to see another step being taken towards the normal running of Kent’s roads.”

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