The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed it has spent £5.7 million to rent Manston Airport in Kent as an emergency lorry parking area in case Operation Stack is implemented.
The details, which were released following a Freedom of Information
request, cover the period August 2015 to December 15 2017.
A DfT spokeman said the Manston site (pictured above) was the only one in the area with enough space for holding lorries in the event of Operation Stack.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it was "dismayed" to hear the government has spent nearly £6 million renting the former airport site.
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, yet the Government is spending £12,000 a day to keep it available when it should be investing in proper parking facilities.”
In November 2017 a proposed 3,600-space site off the M20 in Stanford, Kent was rejected as an environment assessment wasn’t undertaken.
Burnett continued: “Following the Stanford debacle and at a time when lorry drivers parking in Ashford are being punished with huge hikes in clamping release fees, the Department for Transport needs to find a permanent solution quickly.
“The taxpayer and the haulier are suffering. We need secure lorry parks, not more sticking plasters and punitive measures.”
The Freight Transport Association’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling, adopted a more conciliatory tone. “While the price of renting Manston Airport might appear high, the cost of failing to prepare for a possible closure of the Port of Dover would be far greater for the local community, and business as a whole across the country.
“When Operation Stack is implemented, the money lost by UK businesses runs into many millions of pounds, not to mention the cost to the Kent economy and massive disruption to local residents. Vital deliveries are delayed, fresh food rots in the back of trucks, tourists stay away from Kent and local residents are unable to go about their daily lives. Moving trucks into Manston while they wait for cross-Channel access, while not ideal, would relieve pressure on the local infrastructure and go some way to reduce this impact.
“FTA would like to see a viable long-term solution to closures at Dover, which addresses the needs of the logistics industry and Kent residents, such as the proposed parking area near the village of Stanford. However, until such a solution is put in place, the cost of renting Manston is an insurance policy we cannot afford to lose.”
Posted on: February 1st 2018