Published: 17:55, 23 October 2020
| Updated: 18:49, 23 October 2020
A huge post-Brexit lorry park next to the M20 will be ready to hold up to 1,700 trucks from January 1, bosses say.
Contractors started work on the 66-acre Ashford site in July after the government snapped up the land in a secret deal.
Now the town's MP Damian Green - who joined Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, on a visit to the spot yesterday - says construction is "progressing well" and the facility will open in time for the end of the transition period in December.
If the Sevington plot isn't ready, the Department for Transport will use the nearby Waterbrook Park estate, but Mr Green says the project is "on track".
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 1,700 lorries in case there is disruption at the ports.
Mr Green - who only found out about the cabinet minister's visit a few hours beforehand - was joined by Kent County Council leader Cllr Roger Gough and Ashford Borough Council deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett.
The former deputy prime minister told KentOnline: "He (Mr Shapps) was reassured that all the work is being done as fast as possible.
"That was his main concern as he wants to make sure that it is operational from January.
"It is important for lots of reasons that it is ready to go."
Mr Green last visited the site in August and says he was impressed by the progress made since then.
"Of all the building sites I have ever seen, I have never seen so many people working at once," he said.
"It was full-on activity - and it wasn't just because the minister was visiting.
"It was unrecognisable from when I was last there - a huge amount of tarmac has been put down."
Mr Green says he aired concerns over traffic management and the environmental impact with Mr Shapps.
"Getting the lorries on and off the site in a way that doesn't interfere with the flow of traffic too much is important," he said.
"We already know there are difficulties with traffic getting out of the Ashford Retail Park.
"It is very important that whatever system they come up with doesn't interfere with that."
Mr Green says the government is confident that "everyone will go in and out of the lorry park from Junction 10a".
He says "heavy signage" will be erected so drivers know where they are going and "Disneyland-style queues" will form within the site so trucks aren't clogging up the road network.
During the visit, Mr Shapps was also told of Ashford Borough Council's plan to buy the eastern part of the site and turn it into a 'green buffer zone'.
"The Secretary of State is now aware of the concerns about the lorry park," Mr Green added.
"I share my concerns all the time in parliament, but there is always value in having a minister on site so we can talk to them and point things out."
Until Monday, residents can still submit their views on the lorry park project by visiting www.inlandborderfacilities.uk