Published: 11:39, 21 December 2020
| Updated: 11:41, 21 December 2020
Preparations have been taking place to allow for thousands of lorries to be parked at the former Manston Airport site in response to disruption caused by the closure of the French borders.
The airfield near Ramsgate can accommodate up to 4,000 HGVs, and a special development order is in force allowing it to be used as part of Operation Fennel, which tackles cross-border delays in Dover and Folkestone.
The order allows lorries to be held at Manston for up to 48 hours.
The scheme also involves the use of the A299 and the A256 to manage HGVs if congestion builds up too much on the M20, when disruption stops crossings to the continent.
Chaos has been seen at ports in Dover and Folkestone today after all freight and passenger traffic was banned from entering France due to growing concerns a new strain of coronavirus in the UK is 'out of control'.
But it is understood the French government is currently discussing lifting the travel ban to help resume movement from the UK.
Operation Stack, where lorries are parked on the M20, was implemented last night to help deal with the backlog of lorries stuck waiting to cross the Channel.
The Department for Transport also tweeted to say preparations have started at Manston to help manage the disruption.
"This can accommodate up to 4,000 lorries," the DfT said.
"However our message to hauliers is to avoid travelling to Kent until further notice."
Operation Fennel was developed by the multi-agency Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) in partnership with the government to tackle the impacts of Brexit on the country's borders.
Due to the UK no longer being a member of the single market on January 1, when new border controls and checks will be introduced, disruption is expected.
Manston was selected as one site for holding HGVs affected by delays.
Thanet District Council is opposed to the plan due to the "disproportionate burden" it would cause on the district.
At a recent meeting, councillors outlined their concerns which include roads becoming heavily congested, the blocking of major routes to the QEQM hospital and William Harvey, and also the overwhelming pressure on health services should there be a Covid-19 outbreak at the lorry park.
A trial was held last year involving 100 to 150 lorries to test the plan to see what impacts it might have.