The Leader of Thanet District Council has confirmed that the council continues to have major concerns about the use of the Manston Airport site as a holding area for up to 4,000 lorries bound for the continent from January 2021.
Under the Government’s Operation Fennel plan, the A299, Manston and the A256 would be used to manage lorries heading for the Port of Dover if congestion builds up on the M20. This is as a result of new border controls due to come in force at 11pm on 31 December 2020.
It is envisaged that vehicles could be held at Manston for up to 48 hours. Potential HGV movements have been substantially increased in the latest plan from those envisaged in 2019.
Speaking to the Department for Transport on Tuesday 24 November, Cllr Rick Everitt set out particular issues Thanet could face as a result, including highlighting the district’s limited main road network and the current high COVID-19 infection rate
At a meeting of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny panel, members were subsequently informed of the potential direct and indirect effects this plan could have on the local population, economy, environment and transport network.
Members were also advised that the council is still awaiting key information such as an assessment of the traffic movement in the area, analysis of the likely environmental impacts and comprehensive operational management plans for the site.
There are particular concerns that a COVID-19 outbreak at Manston would place additional demands on QEQM Hospital in Margate and could consequently impact on care for residents.
Cllr Everitt said: “The council has never supported the use of Manston as a lorry park because we believe it introduces a disproportionate burden on the district. There could be a significant impact on the free-flow of traffic cutting off Thanet from the wider road network, given that there are only two routes in and out of the district. This would impact residents, commuters and businesses alike.
“We have been actively pressing for the information we need to assess and try to mitigate the risk to residents and our economy. I am reassured by the promise from the department that we will get it, but time is short. In particular we need to be clear that the plan will not detrimentally affect public health and safety at a critical time in combating the current public health emergency.
“We will continue to do everything we can to work collaboratively and play our part to support wider national efforts to minimise disruption to the UK, but we must also speak up for Thanet and do all we can to prevent our area becoming collateral damage if things go wrong.
“Our position remains that we do not support the use of the Manston site as part of an untested, and therefore unproven, plan which could have significant impacts on residents, services and businesses. We have also been clear that if this is imposed on us, it must not be extended beyond June, after which it would clash with the peak tourist season.
“We will continue to share our concerns with Government ministers and departments, our MPs and the other agencies involved and hope that long awaited details will provide the reassurances so needed for local residents and businesses at such a critical time.”