Published: 14:52, 12 July 2020
| Updated: 15:22, 12 July 2020
Nigel Farage believes Kent will not become the permanent "Garden of Lorry Parks" following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
Mr Farage, who backs the initiative for a 27-acre site close to the M20's Junction 10a, does not believe hold-ups on the county's roads will become "catastrophic" post-Brexit.
But the former parliamentary candidate does concede that the new lorry customs centre will result in a "bit more traffic" for Ashford.
"I do have some sympathy with the people of Ashford as the traffic around there is bad enough as it is," he said.
"So I do definitely have sympathy, but I think we're now putting the right things in place.
"The new customs site will result in a bit more traffic but it won't be catastrophic.
"We've seen Operation Stack many times, we get it when the French strike, we get it when there's a force 10 south-westerly gale in the Channel - Kent is used to these problems.
"For the past 25 years, Kent has become the temporary 'Garden of Lorry Parks' whenever the French go on strike.
"But I'm pretty certain that once this is up-and-running and streamlined, there literally won't be a massive load of difference."
Work on the 27-acre customs centre off the A2070 in Sevington, outside Ashford, is due to begin as soon as tomorrow (Monday). Envisaged to alleviate pressures at the Port of Dover and at Eurotunnel, it will take shape on a plot of land branded MOJO - formerly called Stour Park and previously earmarked for a huge industrial estate.
A government letter delivered to nearby residents says the centre will "involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls".
'The new customs site will result in a bit more traffic but it won't be catastrophic...'
The shock news, which came as a surprise to the borough council, is part of the government's £705 million spend on new border controls to ensure the country is prepared to fully leave the EU at the end of this year.
Mr Farage says the government's plan is a step in the right direction.
"The fact we're taking borders seriously is a very good thing," he said.
"When it comes to delivery, well, we'll have to see - but it's absolutely the right thing to do and this is a sign the government is genuinely taking Brexit seriously.
"I'm quite sure that because of the 'trusted trader' scheme most of these trucks that come through will be known by the authorities and trusted by them. It will speed things up.
"But we'll now have the opportunity pull them off the M20 at Ashford and do spot checks, and that's the right thing for us to do."
However, news of the government's customs centre plan has far from pleased everyone. Scores of residents have already voiced their fears over the project and MP Damian Green has branded the proposal "unfair for Ashford".
Many on social media have since called on Ashford residents "to suck it up", citing the town's voting share in the Brexit referendum in which 59.4% opted to leave the EU.
Rather than just being a customs centre, there are worries the site could become a permanent lorry park to hold HGVs overnight - a move which Mr Farage does not deem necessary.
"Frankly, if the government turn it into lorry park then they'll be hugely unpopular - there's no reason why they need to that," he said.
Since the announcement the government had purchased the land, hand-delivered letters have been distributed to people living near the site, informing them it is now in public ownership.
Ashford's deputy council leader Paul Bartlett says the chosen location does make sense.
"There isn't the space at Dover to do the HMRC checks - it is far too congested, they needed to bring it away from there," he said.
"They needed it at a point on the M20 after Eurotunnel, because it wouldn't have worked having it in Folkestone as the lorries using the tunnel would have had to have turned around.
"The only real choices were Stop 24 or Junction 10a.
"I can see why they have plumped for here. When all the infrastructure is there already, why wouldn't they use it?"
Fencing, a temporary site office, and an access route from the A2070 link road are all due to be installed following the commencement of work tomorrow.