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Published: 00:01, 16 April 2019
The timetable for plans for a permanent lorry park as a solution to Operation Stack remains uncertain after the government said it had yet to settle on options for a new site.
Transport bosses are continuing to explore options for a lorry park as an alternative solution - months after writing to hundreds of landowners seeking permission to carry out ecological surveys.
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It did so ahead of a legal challenge from opponents and at the time ministers committed to consulting on alternatives in 2018 before making a formal application for a revised scheme in 2019.
But in response to a Freedom of Information request about progress on a permanent solution, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it has not identified any sites.
In response to questions about the search for alternatives, the DfT said: “Highways England ran a public information exercise on future solutions for Operation Stack in June and July 2018.
"This exercise set out a range of possible options for a permanent solution, including single and multi-site infrastructure and technology based solutions.
"Highways England continues to analyse the responses from the exercise to inform a preferred approach and will then undertake a non-statutory consultation on the way forward.
"Highways England has been exploring and undertaking further work on a range of potential sites for an alternative lorry holding area.
"However, no decisions on alternative sites have been made at this time.”
Last year, Highways England wrote to landowners in the area - including many in Mersham - asking for permission to carry out ecological surveys.
It said those surveys did not indicate any decisions had been taken and it planned to put "a more defined range of options to the public for their views again in the first half of next year".
Last month, chiefs at Swale Borough Council and Canterbury City Council announced they were planning for a lorry park on land at Brenley Corner to address the "urgent and unmet" need for official HGV parking facilities in east Kent.
"We are reviewing the feedback people gave us in our listening exercise last year and will announce next steps in due course" - Highways England
However, they stressed the scheme was related to "fly-parking" overnight by HGVs in lay-bys rather than as an alternative solution to Operation Brock.
A Highways England spokesman said bosses are "continuing work to look at potential permanent solutions for Operation Stack".
He said: “When this work was announced in November 2017 both we and the Department for Transport were clear that the permanent solution would require a fresh look at all potential options, and would need to go through all relevant statutory processes.
"For this reason we were also clear that the permanent solution could not be in place before March 2019.
"We are reviewing the feedback people gave us in our listening exercise last year and will announce next steps in due course."
More by this authorPaul Francis