Published: 06:00, 25 July 2021
Emergency planners say they are confident that they can avoid disruption to Kent’s roads while Operation Brock is in place despite no longer having access to the Manston airport site as part of contingency measures.
Kent County Council said there were a number of options available in the event of any period of prolonged disruption that required extra capacity to hold HGVs.
Meanwhile, the MP Damian Green has pressed the government to ensure the barrier along the M20 is removed as soon as possible, saying that it had been put in place prematurely and the government should have waited to see the impact of the restrictions on travel.
Speaking in Parliament, the MP said: "It was a trifle premature and therefore should be removed as soon as possible."
The Manston site had been a key component of the plans in place to deal with keeping the main routes to the Channel ports open.
However, it was effectively decommissioned in March this year after the Department for Transport said it was no longer required as part of its Brexit contingency plans. It had enough space to hold 4,000 HGVs.
Emergency planners said they had other options including the possibility of using spare space at the Waterbrook site near Ashford - but only as a last resort. That had been used as a temporary site to carry out customs checks while the nearby Sevington site, which is now up and running, was being built.
Toby Howe, the council’s senior highways manager, said: “While there is no direct replacement for the 4,000 spaces at Manston, there are a number of options at the Kent Resilience Forum’s disposal that would enable many HGVs to be safely held in Kent. It is essential that DfT consider additional options outside of Kent.”
The government has also come under fire from a Conservative county councillor from Maidstone, Paul Cooper. He said Highways England should have paused to assess the traffic levels during the first week of the summer holidays.
The current travel restrictions appear to have curbed the number of holidaymakers amid uncertainty about self-isolation rules.
Cllr Cooper said: “Sometimes there are circumstances when it is needed, you have to be realistic and accept that. But in these circumstances, it was obvious that there weren’t going to be hordes of people travelling. It is a bit overkill - and does have an enormous impact on people trying to do their business.”
Under existing contingency plans, more than 2,000 lorries can be held on the M20; while established traffic management schemes such as Dover's TAP20, which can hold up to 500 HGVs.
Sites such as the Inland Border Facility at Sevington can take between 300-500 lorries.