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'Budget' M20 plan drawn up

Operation Stack stock
Operation Stack stock


by political editor Paul Francis

A "no frills" alternative to plans for a lorry park to cope with Operation Stack is being drawn up by Kent County Council.

The option of a low-cost park off the M20 on a 70-acre site at Aldington, near Ashford, comes after the government announced it would not fund the original scheme outlined by KCC, saying it could not afford £35m.

Now council leader Cllr Paul Carter has revealed county road chiefs and planners are drawing up a different scheme for the site, radically simplifying access.

A plan to include an overnight permanent lorry park as part of the scheme has also been scrapped.

The long-standing project has stalled a number of times since KCC first announced it was looking at the site in 2008.

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Now Cllr Carter says government ministers had indicated they could be more sympathetic to a lower cost option and would consider funding if it was shown to be a viable alternative.

He discussed the option with transport minister Michael Penning last week.

Cllr Carter said: "Having considered the costs, we have to arrive at a more minimal solution and as yet, nobody has come up with a better solution [than the park].

"I have always said that we would consider alternative locations but nobody has."

He said the money spent policing and organising the implementation of Operation Stack could be better spent contributing to a park.

"The costs for the police and the highways agency are about £2m a year.

"We could use that money for the site and we are re-drawing the scheme. You wouldn’t see much difference. It is on low lying land."

One reason the costs associated with building the park is the need to create a potentially complex new junction off the motorway.

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

That had led to estimates that the overall costs could be as much as £70m with the Highways Agency saying an additional junction and roundabouts would be needed to provide access.

Cllr Carter said access could be achieved without costly infrastructure.

The lorry park plan has triggered opposition locally with campaign groups saying that it is not necessary and would be in an environmentally sensitive location.

Supporters say it is needed to avoid gridlock in the county and to ease the disruption and the impact on businesses.

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