Published: 11:49, 18 September 2020
| Updated: 12:28, 18 September 2020
A huge post-Brexit lorry park being built close to the M20 is set to be used for five years, it has emerged.
The government is constructing the development next to Junction 10a in Ashford as it prepares for disruption at the end of the transition period in December.
And new plans released this week show how bosses want to lay out the spot, which is overlooked by the historic Sevington church.
From January 1, the northern section of the development will initially be used for HMRC customs checks, with the southern part close to Church Road becoming a holding area for up to 1,500 lorries in case there is disruption at the ports.
Come the start of July, bosses hope trucks will not have to be stored on the land and it will be "purely a customs checking site".
It is expected HMRC and Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) will then continue to check lorries on the land until 2025.
Speaking at a joint transportation board meeting on Tuesday, Toby Howe - senior highways manager at Kent County Council - said all vehicles accessing the spot will have to use Junction 10a.
"The whole plan is everything must come and go from Junction 10a so we are not impacting Bad Munstereifel Road, Junction 10, or the hospital at all," he said.
"It's really key that freight comes in there and goes back out there.
"People are referring to a horrendous lorry park, but it will not be a lorry park, except there may be a few lorries having to be stored there if there are problems at the ports initially.
"It is a customs clearance site - not a lorry park.
"It will not hold 10,000 lorries; the maximum it should hold at the beginning is between 1,300 and 1,500."
Mr Howe confirmed a "five-year usage" of the site is planned.
"HMRC and Defra have said they would only want it for five years," he said.
"The plan then, I would assume, is the site would be available for further development.
"It it totally appropriate for an industrial site and all of the landscaping would still be in place."
"It will not be a lorry park, except there may be a few lorries having to be stored there if there are problems at the ports initially"
Since 2016, the site has had planning permission for an industrial estate which Amazon was previously linked to.
Mr Howe said the land - which has been dubbed MOJO - goes across 66 acres, not 27 as previously believed.
He said bosses will be carrying out import checks as well as export from next summer.
"The lovely assumption is that by July, it will be purely a customs checking site," he added.
During Tuesday's meeting, councillors raised concerns about truckers using unauthorised roads to get to the lorry park.
But Mr Howe stressed HGV drivers will only be allowed to access the site from Junction 10a - and will face a £300 penalty if caught breaking the rules.
He says the new 'smart freight app' and automatic number plate recognition technology will be used to keep an eye on drivers.
"It is amazing what has been done in eight weeks"
Mr Howe also confirmed traffic lights will be installed on the new link road between the A2070 and Junction 10a.
The new signals - which will form the access point to the MOJO site - will allow truckers to turn right when leaving the lorry park.
Ashford Borough Council's deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) - who lives just a stone's throw from the plot - praised the contractors for their efforts.
"The work that has been done on site is terrific," he said.
"It is amazing what has been done in eight weeks.
"They say we're not good at building infrastructure in the UK, but it is really to everybody's credit how things have moved on in eight weeks.
"My message is well done to everyone involved and keep up the work.
"As soon as it's done, obviously there will be a customs clearance site there and people will notice it, but it will settle into the landscape and the community very quickly."
Mr Howe says planning conditions agreed in 2016 when the industrial estate was given the green light are being followed.
"What was agreed back in 2016 is still being used," he said.
"Wild flowers, trees and ponds are included to protect the residents who live on Church Lane [Road] very close to the building site.
"We are making sure it is user-friendly for people who live nearby... we really need to try to keep residents as happy as possible."
The site is likely to be completed by November to ensure the HGV park can be "properly tested" ahead of the UK's EU departure on December 31.
"We really need to try to keep residents as happy as possible"
The Department for Transport says the wall is not Saxon, but did not say which period it is from when asked by KentOnline.
Temporary orange fencing currently surrounds the spot where the wall has been found.
And earlier this month, bomb disposal experts were called after a suspicious object was found on the land.
Police officers joined an explosive ordnance disposal team at the scene, but the object was found to be non-explosive and no further action was taken.
KentOnline revealed last week how the government is yet to work out the potential environmental impact of the development.