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Work starts on post-Brexit lorry park in Ashford just hours after government takes over site

Work has started on a huge post-Brexit lorry park in Ashford - just hours after the government snapped up the site.

Contractors moved in on the 27-acre spot close to Junction 10a of the M20 today as ministers prepare for the end of the transition period in December.

Part of a hedge has been removed to make a temporary access point
Part of a hedge has been removed to make a temporary access point

The Department for Transport is planning "two primary uses" for the Sevington site - a temporary lorry holding area in case there is disruption at Dover and as a border control post to check truckers have the correct paperwork.

A footpath running close to the land has already been closed and diggers were seen moving onto the site off Church Road this morning.

Earlier this week, Ashford MP Damian Green described the scheme as "wrong-headed", raising concerns over the location and lack of consultation.

He feared it would become a permanent lorry park - similar to what the government had planned for Stanford near Hythe before the £250m scheme was dropped in 2017.

But Mr Green says a letter sent to residents yesterday is a "step forward" as it confirmed what the plan for the site is.

"It makes it clear this is not a [permanent] lorry park they had planned for Stanford," he told KentOnline this afternoon.

Where the post-Brexit lorry park is set to go
Where the post-Brexit lorry park is set to go
Work on the site in Sevington started this morning
Work on the site in Sevington started this morning

"At worst, this is a temporary arrangement."

Mr Green says he will join other Kent MPs in a meeting with Michael Gove next week to discuss the plan.

In parliament today, Mr Gove said the government has identified five sites in Kent where it intends to build new infrastructure to carry out checks on lorries post-Brexit.

Of those five, the Sevington site in Ashford is currently the only confirmed location.

In the letter sent to residents yesterday, MP Rachel Maclean confirmed the government will not need to submit a planning application to Ashford Borough Council (ABC).

Traffic lights have been put in along Church Road to allow for the works
Traffic lights have been put in along Church Road to allow for the works

Instead, a Special Development Order (SDO) will be used, which allows the Secretary of State to grant planning permission.

She added: "Preliminary works will start this week to began preparing the site.

"While we do not expect the works will have a significant impact on the surrounding roads, we will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure any noise and disruption is minimised."

The government says "initial disruption" will be from Church Road into the southern part of the site until access is created from the A2070 Junction 10a link road.

While the site is being accessed via Church Road, traffic lights will be used during the day, but will be manually controlled "to minimise delays to residents living on the road".

There are concerns Ashford will be unable to cope with the lorries heading to the site
There are concerns Ashford will be unable to cope with the lorries heading to the site
Damian Green has raised concerns about his government's plan
Damian Green has raised concerns about his government's plan

Mrs Maclean added: "During works on the site, to ensure minimum disruption to the local community, working hours will be restricted to between 7pm to 8pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 5pm on Saturday, with no work on Sundays.

"The existing public footpath has been diverted to avoid the working area.

"Access along Highfield Lane will be restricted and this will be part of the site.

"Soil bunds will be created adjacent to local residences to reduce the noise impact from the site."

Since 2015, the land has had planning permission for an industrial estate which was previously dubbed Stour Park but was rebranded as MOJO last year.

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