Government drops Kent M20 lorry park plan at Stanford

Plans to create a £250m lorry park to deal with disruption on the M20 in Kent have been dropped by the government.

The park at Stanford, near Folkestone, for up to 3,600 lorries was to prevent the need for Operation Stack, when part of the M20 is closed to hold lorries during cross-Channel disruption.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was no longer defending a judicial review over the scheme.

Fresh plans are to be developed by Highways England, the government said.

The DfT said an interim plan to keep the M20 open in both directions during Operation Stack would be developed in the meantime.

The government said a judicial review hearing was planned next month and work had continued to deliver the lorry park “as quickly as possible while also meeting environmental obligations”, but it had not been possible.

Image copyrightPA
Image captionAn interim measure is being developed to keep the M20 open both ways during Operation Stack

Operation Stack was used 32 times in summer 2015.

It led to the use of Manston Airport as an emergency lorry park, an arrangement which has now been extended by the DfT.

Roads minister Jesse Norman said the government knew how seriously Kent residents and businesses were affected and added: “We remain fully committed to a permanent solution.”

Highways England project director John Kerner said improvements to Dover port and the A20 had helped.

He added: “We are better prepared than ever, but a better plan for dealing with more widespread disruption is still needed.”

But Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said it was a “red tape debacle”.

Christopher Snelling from the Freight Transport Association said: “We need further action quickly to make sure that Operation Stack is managed as well as possible. It’s had a huge impact on our industry.”

Criticism also came from Stanford Parish Councillor Matthew Webb, who said: “This was only ever a knee-jerk, political decision.”

He said: “At the time, in July 2015, with that summer of Operation Stack, the government didn’t like seeing it in the news.”

A decision on the interim solution is expected next year with delivery by March 2019.

Consultation on a permanent scheme is planned for next year, with a planning application expected in 2019.

Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe MP, said: “It doesn’t mean that the commitment to having a permanent lorry park to provide relief from Operation Stack has been abandoned at all. That will still go ahead.

“The government will go through a new planning process to determine the location for that and I have to say that location could still be at Stanford West.”