Published: 11:18, 25 November 2020
| Updated: 11:34, 25 November 2020
Devastated residents fear the new border checks facility at Whitfield will rob them of their way of life.
A petition has been launched against the location of the post-Brexit customs checks facility for lorries, which will be built by July and will back on to their village.
The document, which has so far collected 1,105 signatures, blasts the Department for Transport's plan as "detrimental to village way of life".
Being in the immediate vicinity of homes in the Melbourne Avenue area of Whitfield and Guston, residents in these areas told the Mercury they dread: "imposing noise, air and light pollution from the 1200 lorries that could use the facility".
Residents also fear that their statutory right to a thorough consultation will be wiped out by the land's status as the Special Development Order.
The petition, which went live two weeks ago on the change.org website, says: "Guston is a peaceful historic hamlet and an area of outstanding natural beauty and allowing a lorry clearance site in the village centre will slaughter of our way of life enabling the Government to rob community privacy and our residents' entitlement to live peacefully."
Stuart Bishop of Dover Road, Guston, says homes like his will be "caged in" where the site will go around the houses "like a horseshoe".
He anticipates floodlights will lead to "24/7 disturbance". Coupled with the incessant hum of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) there will be poorer air quality from increased emissions, he fears.
Mr Bishop criticised the DfT for holding little consultation - his household hasn't received the letter informing residents of the plans by transport minister Rachel Maclean, but he has had sight of it and has written to her. Plus he claims there has been no discussion of preserving the green belt and no known provision for screening the park's activities with trees or bushes.
He predicts a drastic drop in property values when he has paid a premium for a home in the country.
He has written to Dover MP Natalie Elphicke who replied that she will push for an adequate barrier and landscaping.
Mrs Elphicke has since confirmed to Kentonline she has pushed the minister for trees to buffer the activities of the new facility.
Mrs Elphicke said: "Some residents have suggested a buffer zone between the site and homes that includes tree screening, as well as suitable lighting direction and careful management of operational hours.
"These suggestions, and others from residents that have been sent to me, are ones I will be raising direct with the Minister on behalf of residents.
"It was in this context that I raised the importance of sensitive design that takes into account environmental and further traffic considerations with the Minister in the House of Commons yesterday. "She committed to listening to the concerns of the local community and carefully considering the results of the consultation on the proposed Border Control Point, as well as air quality and sanitation issues relating to transition matters more generally."
Guston Parish Council has vowed to fight plans to build an Inland Border facility “with everything it has.”
“Our questions and concerns are falling on deaf ears..."
Chairwoman Tracey Creed claims the council was not told about the Department for Transport’s plan to build the 1200 capacity park between Whitfield and Guston.
Instead councillors were shown a “vague” letter sent to residents late in October.
Ms Creed said: “It contained no real detail which in turn heightened our suspicions.”
She added: “In addition the council’s district and county councillors were also surprised as to why they had no knowledge of this development. They have now teamed up with GPC to investigate this development and support residents on St Martin’s Road and Dover Road who will be directly affected.
“We are concerned that information and clarity is not forthcoming from the Department for Transport nor Government departments that have been contacted by residents, GPC and also our district and county councillors.
“Our questions and concerns are falling on deaf ears."
She is calling on Mrs Elphicke to visit the area and meet with residents.
The site has been marked for commercial development and forms part of the Dover District land allocations local plan, phase III site white cliffs business park, adopted in 2015.
Ms Creed added: “There are certain constraints on this land which detail any industrial development within this residential area must not be detrimental to the amenity, it needs to protect the setting of the North Downs Way, and a historical Roman road which passes through the site must also be retained and enhanced.
“The residents are concerned how this beautiful landscape that has always been used for agricultural purposes can be retained and enhanced, protecting planting and habitats, once it’s covered in tarmac.
“The Special Development Order (SDO)the government is using will squash any need for planning conditions or scrutiny and basically remove the residents’ democratic right of a thorough consultation with the necessary departments.
“GPC are not against development or encouraging jobs in the area, but any development must be transparent and needs to be thoroughly considered, the right assessments and consultation must be carried out and must not be detrimental to a whole village.
“We are told the bulldozers and diggers are due in January 2021 but we are going to fight this with everything at our disposal.”
In her letter to residents, the minister Rachel Maclean explained the need for the facility.She said: "The UK will no longer be part of the customs union or the single market as of January 1, 2021.
"As a responsible government we are preparing for the changes this will bring with regards to exports and imports of goods.
"On June 12, 2020 the Government recognised the impact of Coronavirus on businesses' ability to prepare, and as part of the wider UK border strategy the Government has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until July 1 2021."
It says the Dover facility will be a "strategic" location for starting and ending the transit movement of goods to and from the UK, as well as performing border checks.
The letter promises it will not be used as a temporary lorry parking facility.