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Manston airport set for key role in Operation Stack

By Paul Francis

The owners of Manston airport are set to sign a contract to use the site as an emergency lorry park during Operation Stack.

Sources have told KentOnline the owners of the site are ready to sign a three-month deal with the Department for Transport, with the option of it being renewed on a monthly basis.

An announcement is expected to be made on Tuesday.

Operation Stack
Operation Stack

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said he would fight "tooth and nail" against any suggestion of using Manston as a lorry park.

"All it is going to do is bring disruption to east Kent. It is wholly unacceptable and I will fight tooth and nail to take it off [the government's] list. It is not sensible at all."

The site has previously been mooted as a possible place that could hold several thousand lorries - which ordinarily would be parked on the M20 during Operation Stack.

The owners Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave said last month they were prepared to help out, so long as the disruption to traffic in the area was minimised.

The news of Manston’s role follows the announcement by the roads minister Andrew Jones on Friday that Ebsfleet International Station in north Kent was to be brought into the equation and used to provide spaces for as many as 1,000 HGVs.

Mr Jones said Manston was still among the other options under consideration.

The news is likely to prompt mixed reactions. There are concerns that it will mean displacing the problems of Operation Stack to another part of the county.

However, the government will argue using the site will mean there is a place where a large number of the thousands of lorries that cause the M20 to be closed completely can be contained.

It will also highlight that the airport would need relatively little work done because of the hard-standing of the former runway.

Manston airport before it closed
Manston airport before it closed

Both Kent County Council leader Cllr Paul Carter and the Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins have repeatedly called for the idea of using Manston to be more fully explored.

Speaking last month, Ray Mallon, the spokesman for what has been renamed Stone Hill Park, said: "If Stone Hill Park is approached by national Government or by Kent Police to assist in dealing with the problem then we will do so in any way we can, as the circumstances before us are exceptional indeed.

"Manston airport is in completely wrong location, too far from Dover, further still from the Channel Tunnel and off the wrong motorway system..." - Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale

“The strike action in Calais is having a very serious affect on the local economy, with the gridlock of traffic on the M20 and surrounding roads of particular concern.

"The daily cost of the strike action to the Uk economy as a whole is an estimated £250m.”

But North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale argued it would only mean chaos.

"Manston airport is in completely wrong location, too far from Dover, further still from the Channel Tunnel and off the wrong motorway system.

"Added to which the roads approaching Manston Airport are not suited to an influx of hundreds of articulated trucks.The idea is idiotic and it is dead in the water."

Thanet council was more cautious at the time, with Ukip leader Cllr Chris Wells echoing concerns about the impact on the area.

The government has come under fire in recent days with critics saying it has acted too slowly to address the problems in Calais.

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