Published: 10:31, 27 January 2021
| Updated: 11:23, 27 January 2021
More than 100 people are to be recruited to work at a huge Brexit lorry park ahead of its full opening.
The enormous park in Sevington, Ashford, will provide customs and transit checks for lorries leaving and arriving from Europe.
The government - which only snapped up the 66-acre plot in July - had hoped it could hold up to 1,700 trucks on the site and use the land for customs checks from January 1.
While this was delayed by heavy rain, the park was used to house around 1,000 vehicles amidst the chaos caused by the French border closure in December.
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) is now looking to recruit around 130 staff to work at the upcoming port health service which will operate out of the park.
The government has provided a total of £8.8m in funding for ABC and Dover District Council for these roles, which will involve carrying out checks on imported animal products from the EU from April.
There will reportedly be up to 124,000 checks per year at the site, which is just off J10A of the M20.
The council says it will be introducing the service in a phased approach, with documentary checks starting on April 1and physical checks three months later.
They will focus on animal products, high-risk food not of animal origin, and animal by-products imported from the EU.
These are different to customs checks, which are starting in February as previously planned.
Cllr Peter Feacey, ABC's Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Wellbeing, described the new service as "an exciting challenge".
He said: "While the scale of the task is testing, we are fully committed to implementing the changes that are necessary and meeting our responsibilities.
“I am heartened by the support being provided by Defra, not only from a financial perspective but also practically in terms of designing and implementing this service in just a few months.
"I am sure that we will rise to the challenge before us and provide this nationally strategic service.”
Farming, Fisheries and Food Minister Victoria Prentis said: “We are rightly proud of our high standards of animal and plant goods, and we are determined to maintain them, while ensuring that operations at our ports continue to run smoothly.
“This funding will allow local authorities to play their part in maintaining standards and efficiency at our borders, while also providing investment in new jobs and infrastructure.”
Toby Howe, Senior Highways Manager at Kent County Council, said: “Getting Sevington operational in time to play its part in traffic management plans for the UK’s departure from the EU was a huge undertaking.
"But the hard work hasn’t stopped there and now the focus is on transforming the facility into a fully-fledged Inland Border Facility to help trade flow without disrupting traffic.
“It’s fantastic to see the site plans moving forward and the job opportunities created for the local community in the process.
"Just as we did in preparation for the end of the Brexit transition period, the Kent Resilience Forum, including Kent Police, KCC and Highways England, will work closely with Ashford Borough Council to deliver this challenging, but exciting, project.
"It puts the town at the very heart of operations for the UK’s new trading arrangements with the EU.”