Published: 22:07, 10 July 2020
| Updated: 09:03, 11 July 2020
The Government has secretly purchased a huge site on the outskirts of Ashford to build a post-Brexit customs clearance centre.
The news, reported on the Guardian's website tonight, is expected to be officially confirmed this weekend and work on fencing off the 27-acre MOJO site in Sevington will begin on Monday. The area, formerly known as the Stour Park estate, has previously been linked to a new distribution centre for Amazon.
The site, off Junction 10a of the M20, will act as a clearance centre for the 10,000 lorries arriving in Kent from Calais each day. The area is one-and-a-half times the size of Margate theme park Dreamland.
Ashford Borough Council was only given a few hours' notice of the deal.
Hand-delivered letters are now being distributed to people living near the site, informing them it is now in public ownership and warning them of potential disruption.
The letter, from Rachel Maclean, MP and parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, will say: “We are writing to inform you that the Department of Transport has purchased the site known as ‘MOJO’ (Church Road, Sevington, Ashford).
"Preliminary works are scheduled to take place on the western parcel from Monday 13 July 2020. This will include: securing the site with fencing, grass and weed vegetation cutting, extensive survey work, the constructing of a temporary site office, and the constructing of a temporary access to the site from the A2070 link road.
“Plans have not yet been finalised for the use of this site, but is anticipated to form part of the Department’s strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports for the end of the transition period.
"This is likely to involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls to be carried out by government agencies (eg HM Revenue and Customs). More detailed information will be provided in due course.”
The news was revealed to the Guardian by Paul Bartlett, Conservative councillor on Ashford Borough Council for Mersham, Sevington South with Finberry, who lives close to the site.
The emergency purchase of the site is expected to be unveiled on Sunday by Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office.
Kent is in the frontline of potential Brexit disruption, with fears of lengthy delays on the M20 and surrounding roads.
The MOJO site had previously been linked to a new distribution site for online giant Amazon.
Discussing the Amazon rumours, Cllr Bartlett told KentOnline: “They did express an interest in the nearby MOJO site before, but then there is a big risk that you are putting two and two together and getting five.”