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Cost of keeping Manston on standby for Operation Stack is nearly £6m

By Paul Francis

The bill for keeping the Manston airport site on standby in the event Operation Stack is triggered has risen to almost £6m.

The Department for Transport has released the costs after a Freedom of Information request.

The government has paid £5.7 million to use Manston airfield should it be required.

The Manston Airport runway
The Manston Airport runway

But since making the agreement with the owners, it has remained idle.

The costs equate to £6,700 a day.

The arrangement was agreed in 2015 after the M20 was shut for more than 30 days, creating chaos in the county and losing businesses millions of pounds.

At the time, the plan was criticised as “crackpot” by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale and Kent Police expressed reservations about the location.

But the government went ahead and in 2016, we revealed how keeping the site had cost the taxpayer £3.5m.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: "People will rightly be angry that millions of pounds of taxpayers' cash has been wasted on this. Everyone in Kent knows Manston would never work as a lorry park for the Channel Ports.

"This money would have been far better spent on preparing for Brexit at the Dover frontline.”

The former Manston airport, now called Stone Hill Park. Picture: Simon Burchett
The former Manston airport, now called Stone Hill Park. Picture: Simon Burchett

A DfT spokesperson said: “We recognise the disruption suffered by residents and businesses in Kent when Operation Stack was implemented in 2015 and we remain fully committed to a permanent solution.

However, in the interim, we must develop a temporary measure to keep the M20 running in both directions and ensure any potential disruption is kept to a minimum.”

“We are keeping Manston Airfield as an option for holding lorries in the event of Operation Stack being put in place again, as it is currently the only site offering sufficient space in the immediate area.”

However, the Road Haulage Association said the arrangement was not needed and the site was in the wrong place.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Manston Airport was only supposed to be a short-term contingency following the mayhem we saw on the M20 during the summer of 2015, but two-and-a-half years later the taxpayer is still footing the bill for a facility that’s never been used.

“It’s a completely unsuitable location as the road network in that part of Kent is not geared up to accommodating hundreds of HGVs.”

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