Published: 14:45, 15 November 2017
by Paul Francis and Matt Leclere
News of the M20 lorry park plan being scrapped is sparking reaction from all corners of the county.
Businesses, politicians and residents are all starting to have their say on the news which broke this lunchtime.
Residents are delighted by the news and are planning a celebration in the village pub in Stanford this evening.
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said the news was "very frustrating" and pressed the case for a need to find an interim solution urgently.
Mr Collins told KentOnline: "The fact that the lorry park has been delayed is very frustrating but what is important is that an interim solution is found to place lorries as soon as is possible.
"There is a need not just for 24-hour lorry parks but for a longer term solution particularly to stop fly parking.”
He said that ideally a new location needed to be found in Kent close to the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
Mr Collins added the idea for a moveable barrier that had been used but was also scrapped by Highways England might be reconsidered.
It was designed to allow contra-flow arrangements to be implemented more quickly on the London-bound carriageway of the M20, between junctions 11 and 12, at times of extreme congestion at the Channel ports or Eurotunnel.
He said: “Manston is there as an emergency lorry park already and that is the contingency plan."
The move has been welcomed by the RAC, which said it was pleased the lack of overnight lorry parking would now be looked at instead of a holding area.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The government is now doing what we would have preferred to have seen done from the outset.
"Not just looking for an acceptable alternative to Operation Stack, but moving to tackle both the woeful shortage of overnight lorry parking in the South East and the potential challenges hauliers face if a no-deal Brexit occurs and more customs facilities are needed."
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said the timing was "strange" given the recent focus on issues with potential freight delays after Brexit.
She said: "The uncertainty over how the government is planning to tackle both the issue of Operation Stack and the prospect of chaos on the county’s road network due to border delays. It will further undermine confidence in its support for the Kent economy, and its overall approach to Brexit.
“News that the Government plans to consult with the public ahead of a planning application in 2019 means it will be impossible to have a workable solution in place for 29 March 2019 when it’s planned that we will leave the EU.
“We must hope the opportunity is taken to consider how technology could be used to nationally manage the flow of lorries in the event of Stack, holding them outside the county in order to avoid gridlock and keep Kent’s roads and businesses moving.”
Small businesses are warning they could be left hit by the plans going back to the drawing board.
Mike Cherry, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the announcement was "deeply disappointing" it has gone "right back to square one".
He added: "Operation Stack brings gridlock to vast swathes of Kent, leaving local businesses cut off from customers and supplies.
"Even an interim solution may not be in place for another 16 months. While proper planning procedures must be followed, action needs to be taken urgently to prevent the risk of further chaos.
"Given Dover is Europe’s busiest international ferry port and handles £100 billion of trade annually, we urge the Government to implement an interim plan as soon as possible – ensuring disruption is kept to a minimum."
Liberal Democrat group leader at Kent County Council, Cllr Rob Bird said: "Within a few hours the Government's Brexit preparations have gone from 'catastrophic' to almost 'non-existent'.
"The plan for a massive lorry park at Stanford was never a good solution. Using Manston Airport is no better, nor is parking up lorries on the M20.
"Having no dedicated lorry park in place by March 2019 could cause the biggest traffic jam Kent has ever experienced. Kent needs a credible alternative to Operation Stack now."
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