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Work yet to start on Ashford Brexit 'lorry park' as Damian Green questions Michael Gove

Work on a post-Brexit 'lorry park' on the outskirts of Ashford is yet to begin - despite being expected to start today.

Contractors were due to move in on the 27-acre site close to Junction 10a of the M20 after the government earmarked the spot for thousands of lorries.

The site is close to Sevington church. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The site is close to Sevington church. Picture: Barry Goodwin

But residents living near the land in Sevington are yet to receive letters informing them it is now in public ownership and warning them of the works.

Ashford MP Damian Green says the government intended to deliver the letters by hand over the weekend but didn't because it hadn't completed the purchase of the site.

"I was told on Saturday they would complete the purchase today (Monday) or tomorrow," he told KentOnline this afternoon.

"There should have been some sort of consultation about the plan.

"There was no indication at all, which I am not impressed by – it's never been on the radar.

The site of the Brexit 'lorry park' on the outskirts of Ashford
The site of the Brexit 'lorry park' on the outskirts of Ashford

"So many new houses are being built in that area and it will mean people are buying homes in good faith not knowing this was planned.

"It's also close to the William Harvey Hospital, where any disruption to traffic in the local area could literally be fatal."

In the letter which is yet to be delivered to residents, the government said the centre will "involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls".

But Mr Green says he wants a "cast-iron guarantee" the plan is "only an insurance policy and there's no intention to build a permanent outbound lorry park".

He added: "Part of the proposal is for a small, in-bound customs checking area.

The new site in Ashford is set to cater for scores of lorries
The new site in Ashford is set to cater for scores of lorries

"That won't be a full-on lorry park of the sort I and others oppose so that's not unacceptable.

"But it's exactly the wrong place to hold thousands of lorries going out through Kent."

Mr Green says he hopes the temporary holding area for delayed HGVs will never have to be used.

"Ideally, it won't be used at all," he said.

"If the border system works efficiently then, even in the early days when you expect glitches, it ought to be the case that Operation Brock can cope with any delays at the border so you won't have to use the site.

"That will be the best solution but, if that doesn't happen, then I don't want them thinking they have solved the long-term problem of where to put a lorry park in Kent, because it absolutely mustn't be this site."

MP Damian Green has concerns over noise and air pollution
MP Damian Green has concerns over noise and air pollution

In parliament this afternoon, Mr Green described the lorry park plan as "wrong-headed" and asked cabinet office minister Michael Gove what environmental impact assessments have been completed at the site.

"It is not the case that any specific site has been absolutely confirmed," Mr Gove replied.

"We are in commercial negotiations with a number of sites and as and when they are confirmed I will let him know.

"It is also the case that some of the infrastructure will be temporary, some of it permanent."

Work was expected to start on the Sevington site today. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Work was expected to start on the Sevington site today. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Mr Gove said he would like to invite all Kent MPs to the cabinet office to discuss his approach.

Labour's Hilary Benn asked Mr Gove whether the Ashford site will be used for lorries going out of UK or coming in, but the Tory MP ducked the question.

Before asking his question in parliament, Mr Green told KentOnline he has concerns about noise and air pollution.

He added: "I assume the environmental assessments haven't been done because, apart from anything else, people would have seen them doing it."

"It's exactly the wrong place to hold thousands of lorries going out through Kent"

Yesterday, Nigel Farage told KentOnline he believes the county will not become the permanent "Garden of Lorry Parks" following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

On Twitter today, #FarageGarage has been trending as residents react to the plan for the site, which was previously earmarked for the huge 'Stour Park' industrial estate.

Many on social media have called on Ashford residents "to suck it up", citing the town's voting share in the Brexit referendum in which 59.4% opted to leave the EU.

In the 2016 referendum, turnout was 77.1% with 69,828 votes cast out of an electorate of 90,516.

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

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