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Ashford Brexit lorry park opens for first time as truckers receive Covid-19 tests


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A huge Brexit lorry park has opened for the first time - but the site is still far from complete because contractors have been unable to lay enough tarmac.

HGV drivers heading for Europe have started receiving Covid-19 tests on part of the development next to Junction 10a of the M20 in Ashford.

A HGV turns off the A2070 link road and enters the 66-acre site. Picture: Barry Goodwin
A HGV turns off the A2070 link road and enters the 66-acre site. Picture: Barry Goodwin

But workers are still behind on the construction programme as inclement weather is continuing to delay the build.

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.

But heavy rain has meant the checks are being carried out on a temporary facility at the nearby Waterbrook Park estate, with only part of the Sevington site currently available.

Yesterday, staff began administering coronavirus tests on the plot - despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously saying it was “essential” truckers get tested before they reach Kent.

The government confirmed at the weekend that it had identified 20 locations outside the county where lorry drivers can be tested before continuing their journey to the Channel ports.

Work is still continuing on the site
Work is still continuing on the site

But it also said more centres would be opened over the next few days.

It comes as drivers heading to France from the UK have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken in the previous 72 hours.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says it is now directing hauliers arriving at the Eurotunnel terminal without a negative test result or valid Kent Access Permit to the Sevington site.

Ashford Borough Council deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) praised the work of staff at the lorry park, saying: "The site was never designed for testing, rather for border readiness checks and HGV parking.

"The fact the site has been reconfigured in a matter of days is no small feat.

A huge fence at the edge of the site in Highfield Lane
A huge fence at the edge of the site in Highfield Lane
The first truckers used the Sevington Inland Border Facility yesterday. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The first truckers used the Sevington Inland Border Facility yesterday. Picture: Barry Goodwin

"I make no apologies for thanking Kent County Council staff again for the work they have done - and will continue to do - in managing the impact of this on nearby residents as far as is possible."

Ashford MP Damian Green says carrying out Covid tests on the site makes sense, but confirmed contractors are still behind on construction, which is now due to be finished in late February.

He said: "One of the things I've been saying is we should do all we can not to have to test drivers on the motorway, obviously to keep it flowing even with Operation Brock in place.

"The site is one of the places where - if they need to do a last-ditch test before going to the Channel Tunnel in particular - it would be most convenient.

On the build programme, he added: "They haven't got the full capacity ready yet, even for the emergency parking, because of the weather.

Where the post-Brexit lorry park is being built
Where the post-Brexit lorry park is being built
Lorries on the Sevington site today. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries on the Sevington site today. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Signs have been put up in the narrow Church Road
Signs have been put up in the narrow Church Road

"They've not been able to lay enough tarmac; it's able to hold hundreds at the moment, rather than the full 1,700 they want there."

When asked about the diversion due to be set up at the Orbital Park roundabout - which is yet to be implemented days after it was scheduled - Mr Green said: "I think that will wait until the operation becomes much more crowded than it has been since the year began."

In a statement released on Christmas Eve, the government confirmed it has "approval for the temporary operation of both Sevington and Waterbrook in parallel for a temporary period".

Part of the Sevington site pictured on Friday. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Part of the Sevington site pictured on Friday. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Ashford MP Damian Green says contractors are "still behind on construction"
Ashford MP Damian Green says contractors are "still behind on construction"
The 66-acre site was previously set to become an industrial estate before the government snapped it up
The 66-acre site was previously set to become an industrial estate before the government snapped it up

This is running from January 1 until the end of February.

The DfT said: "It is proposed that HMRC customs checks will be carried out at Waterbrook during this period with DfT traffic management and HGV border readiness checks happening at Sevington.

"It is important to note the total level of activity across the two sites would be no more than that proposed just on the Sevington site in terms of total HGV movements.

A HGV at the entrance to the site on the A2070 link road. Picture: Barry Goodwin
A HGV at the entrance to the site on the A2070 link road. Picture: Barry Goodwin
In the summer, what was believed to be a Saxon wall was found in this part of the site, which is now one of many ponds
In the summer, what was believed to be a Saxon wall was found in this part of the site, which is now one of many ponds
The staff entrance is off Church Road
The staff entrance is off Church Road

"As we stated during the engagement period, there is no intention to operate both sites fully as inland border facilities at the same time.

"Further consideration has been given to the potential environmental effects of both sites operating on this limited basis.

"We have concluded there would not be any significant impacts from this and no greater effects than those assessed previously with only one of the sites in operation."

Customs checks are currently being carried out at the Waterbrook Park site. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Customs checks are currently being carried out at the Waterbrook Park site. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The diversion route set to be implemented from the Orbital Park roundabout
The diversion route set to be implemented from the Orbital Park roundabout
The entrance to the Waterbrook Park lorry park
The entrance to the Waterbrook Park lorry park
A HGV heads to the lorry park entrance on the A2070 link road. Picture: Barry Goodwin
A HGV heads to the lorry park entrance on the A2070 link road. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Last month, new traffic lights were installed at the entrance to the Sevington plot, which is officially called the Sevington Inland Border Facility.

Additional reporting by Paul Francis and Charlie Harman

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