Published: 14:03, 02 March 2021
| Updated: 14:05, 02 March 2021
The full opening of a purpose-built Brexit lorry park in Ashford has been delayed by a week.
The government has confirmed the Sevington Inland Border Facility's customs checkpoint has not yet begun operation – despite an initial target of March 1.
Heavy snow last month, as well as rain at the end of last year, has slowed and even halted work during the construction programme.
Ashford MP Damian Green – along with other Kent MPs – got a progress report yesterday from Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.
Recounting the meeting, Mr Green told KentOnline: "The latest is that on the question of whether they've started the HMRC proceedings yet the answer is no, that's been delayed a week.
"It will be ready to go this weekend rather than last weekend.
"It's simply that they didn't finish the building work in time."
In the meantime, the government has been renting a large space at the nearby Waterbrook Park for HMRC checks while part of the new 66-acre Sevington facility has served as a Covid-19 testing site.
It is hoped the launch of the new facility – which is closer to Junction 10a – will prevent nuisances for nearby residents, including lorries getting lost in villages.
On-site customs officers are being aided by staff recruited in Ashford and the surrounding area, employed directly by Ashford Borough Council.
Army personnel had been carrying out the on-site testing of lorry drivers until February 13, when trained civilians took over the role.
While capacity at the facility hasn't been tested too much yet, the final plan is to shut the Manston holding area for Dover-bound drivers and have trucks destined for both Eurotunnel and cross-channel ferries be processed at the Sevington site.
A decision could be made this week on when Manston's closure will take place.
Later, in about July, a Defra processing site will also be built and opened at the Sevington border post.
Mr Green hoped the building process for this would run more smoothly, saying: "A lot of the delays have been weather-related, so presumably as the weather gets better it's easier to predict and work shouldn't be so impacted."