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Fears over Brexit customs clearance centre in Ashford after government snaps up MOJO site near M20 Junction 10a

A vast Brexit customs clearance centre catering for thousands of lorries on the outskirts of Ashford will result in huge disruption, fears the town's MP.

Damian Green is vehemently opposed to his government's plan to turn a 27-acre site close to the M20's Junction 10a into a holding spot for HGVs.

Thousands of lorries are set to head to Ashford for customs checks
Thousands of lorries are set to head to Ashford for customs checks

It is hoped the new site, which was previously earmarked for a huge industrial estate, will alleviate pressures at Dover post-Brexit and reduce hold-ups at the port.

But Mr Green says the government's vision for the land - which had remained secret until yesterday evening - is "unfair to Ashford" as it is "too near too many homes for it to be the right place".

Work is due to begin at the site in Sevington as soon as Monday, with fencing, a temporary site office, and an access route from the A2070 link road all due to be installed.

"I am strongly opposed to this, and have told ministers this," Mr Green said.

"They are planning to use it as a holding station for lorries if the Channel ports are blocked after the transition period ends in December, because Manston will not be available.

The huge MOJO site is near to the newly-built Junction 10a. Pic: MOJO
The huge MOJO site is near to the newly-built Junction 10a. Pic: MOJO

"It could mean several thousand lorries being stored on the site, even if Operation Brock is in force.

"No one has suggested using this site as a lorry park in the many years of discussions on the subject, and it is too near too many homes for it to be the right place.

"I think this would be hugely disruptive for everyone in the area, and we have had no indication in all the years of discussion over the M20 that this site would be used for this purpose.

"I have received assurances that this use would only be temporary, but I am sceptical."

The 27-acre plot has had planning permission since 2015 for an industrial estate, with Amazon previously rumoured to be moving in.

Damian Green MP
Damian Green MP

However, work has never started at the spot, which was formerly called Stour Park but was renamed MOJO last year.

The government has now snapped up the site and is due to officially announce its purchase this weekend as part of its Brexit strategy.

While MOJO is being built, custom checks are set to be carried out at the nearby Waterbrook Park industrial estate.

Ashford's deputy council leader Paul Bartlett (Con), who lives just a stone's throw away from the land, spotted activity at the site this week.

"Lots of suspicious characters have been walking around Church Road in suits and with lanyards on recently," he said.

The Waterbrook Park site. Part of the spot is due to be used for customs checks while the MOJO site is being developed. Pic: Ady Kerry/ABC
The Waterbrook Park site. Part of the spot is due to be used for customs checks while the MOJO site is being developed. Pic: Ady Kerry/ABC

"It has all been very strange - I saw all these people mooching around and now we know why.

"The important thing will be that the lorries turn over quickly.

"The worst thing for residents would be lorries queueing at the site waiting to be dealt with.

"But I think with modern technology, they will know full well when lorries are arriving at Dover and they will be able to plan ahead.

"It is really important for Brexit. We have got to get Brexit done and it is a vital element in that.

Cllr Paul Bartlett
Cllr Paul Bartlett

"It won't be great while they are building it - I think it will be two years of works."

Ashford Borough Council was given only a few hours' notice of the government's shock deal.

Hand-delivered letters have since been distributed to people living near the site, informing them it is now in public ownership and warning them of potential disruption.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

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