Published: 09:48, 19 November 2020
| Updated: 11:09, 19 November 2020
New photos show how work on a huge post-Brexit lorry park is progressing as its opening date edges closer.
Contractors were forced to down tools earlier this month when heavy rain hit the 66-acre site in Sevington, Ashford.
VIDEO: Work continues on giant Brexit lorry park overlooked by Sevington church
But work has restarted on the plot and tarmac has now been laid close to the entrance off the A2070 link road.
The site, which is near Junction 10a of the M20, is due to open at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, providing space for up to 1,700 lorries in case of disruption at the ports.
Officially called the 'Sevington Inland Border Facility', the Department for Transport will also use the site as a customs clearance area for goods being exported to the EU.
In documents prepared ahead of a meeting of its cabinet next week, Ashford Borough Council says it will be responsible for delivering new port health controls at the site, which it states could become the largest border control post in England.
The authority says the controls relate to checks on imports of animal products and high-risk food not of animal origin imported from the EU.
ABC says it will employ more than 120 staff to carry out the checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Bosses say the service is to be introduced on a phased approach with documentary checks starting on April 1 2021 and physical checks three months later.
In the cabinet report, council officer Sheila Davison, head of community safety and wellbeing, says the work represents a "totally new policy area" as the authority has "no previous involvement with port health controls".
She wrote: "The purpose of the checks are to ensure that only products that are safe to eat can enter the food chain, to safeguard animal and public health and check compliance with relevant rules and international standards, and therefore these objectives are highly relevant to the council’s existing food safety work and wider responsibilities to protect consumers.
"The financial implications are significant.
"There is no existing budget provision for this service either in regard to initial project management, service design and implementation, or when operational.
"All aspects will require government funding and underwriting as necessary until such time as the service is operating on a full cost recovery basis.
"Officers are working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] on initial budget allocations to set up and run the service for in the initial stages i.e. to 31 March 31 2021."
Ms Davison says the council would be "failing in its statutory duties were it not to undertake the required port health checks".
"The creation of new inland border posts after EU transition is of national importance," she added.
"The site at Sevington is a key part of the national plan and when fully operational will be one of the largest border control posts in England, possibly even the largest.
"Our council will therefore play a vital role in making a success of the country’s new trading arrangements with the EU.
"Designing and implementing a service of this scale in such a short period of time is a significant challenge, but one that will be met positively by the council.
"It could not have come at a more difficult time in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We also face the wider challenges posed within Kent by leaving the EU and the normal problems caused by winter weather.
"It will not be an easy few months, but we will embrace the challenges and seek to maximise benefits for our community."
ABC's cabinet will discuss the border control post at its cabinet meeting next Thursday evening.