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Dartford council not informed about Brexit checks at Ebbsfleet station

Controversial plans to shut down Ebbsfleet station's Covid-19 testing site for a Brexit customs checkpoint were not discussed with the local council, it has emerged.

Dartford's leader Cllr Jeremy Kite says the key decision over the railway land, which lies within the borough, was made by the Government and health authorities behind closed doors.

Cllr Jeremy Kite MBE
Cllr Jeremy Kite MBE

The Tory borough and county councillor said he would be "extremely concerned" if the Covid centre's relocation to Rochester's Curtis Way had "compromised" the wider testing capacity for the county. Ebbsfleet was catering for around 2,000 tests a day.

However, Cllr Kite said residents should "trust the judgement" of the NHS and Public Health England, adding he was "confident" they would have enough Covid capacity in the right locations.

He said: "These are difficult and challenging times and we all must be able to have faith in our big public services that they are making the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons."

His comments come four days after a leaked letter from Kent County Council (KCC) showed the Ebbsfleet testing centre had shut because the "site is required by HMRC for EU Exit".

On Wednesday, Ebbsfleet Garden City bosses asked for more details about the "operational" aspects of the likely Brexit lorry park.

Cllr Sacha Gosine
Cllr Sacha Gosine

Precise use has not been confirmed but it is believed one of Ebbsfleet station's car parks would hold up to 80 lorries at a time and a booking system implemented for slots.

Dartford council's main opposition leader, Cllr Sacha Gosine (Lab), of Ebbsfleet, said it would be a "logistical nightmare" and "pandemonium" on the M25.

On the decision to shut down the Covid site, he said earlier this week: "What are we doing Brexit for if everyone is dead?"

Although Cllr Kite said he would put his faith in the national health authorities, the council leader also questioned whether priorities around Brexit and Covid were correct.

He added: "As far as I am concerned any concerns and planning over Brexit take second place to the safety and health of our communities in the face of this lingering pandemic but it’s the health services who are placed to ensure that."

The Covid-19 testing centre set up at Ebbsfleet International
The Covid-19 testing centre set up at Ebbsfleet International

Regional Covid test sites have opened at Manston Airport in Ramsgate and Ashford's Victoria Road car park while, on Brexit, the Dover-Calais crossing is used by about 10,000 lorries a day.

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