The news that Government is not contesting the Judicial Review claim brought by the owners of Westenhanger Castle and supported by Stanford Parish Council brought the entire Kentish press corps to Stanford yesterday. It seems to have made no impact on the national TV due to the news from Zimbabwe. Cynics will suspect the timing of the announcement on something of national importance was carefully chosen. SPC Chairman Matthew Webb has summed up the situation today and posted this on Facebook:
Despite yesterday’s fantastic news I know many of you will be wondering what happens next. Particularly in light of the Govt’s statement that they believe the long term solution for Operation STACK still includes a Lorry Park(s).
My thoughts on the subject are as follows:
1. This is a victory. The Government has withdrawn its plans for a Lorry Park in Stanford
2. However, the Government believes that a Lorry Park (or parks) may still be part of the solution to Operation Stack. Consequently the Government are going to carry out another process to assess potential sites with a decision expected in 2019. This could see Stanford selected once again.
3. Whatever the outcome of this new process it is highly unlikely that we will again be threatened with a 3,600 Lorry Park because:
a. It makes little sense for the Govt to pull out of Stanford and impose further delay to delivery without ever entering into negotiation with us about our list of commitments which could have seen the scheme proceed, only for them to come back a second time.
b. As the Govt intends to follow a full planning process this time it is likely that scale of any Lorry Park will be smaller as we know that Highways England believed they could not mitigate noise pollution in the original proposal to levels required by an EIAR.
c. Improvements to infrastructure since 2015, such as Dover TAP, enhanced Channel Tunnel check in, more parking at Port of Dover all mean that if lorry park(s) are to be part of the solution to Operation Stack the size may be reduced.
d. BREXIT happens in 18 months and will have real consequences in respect of increased customs clearance for freight. Funds to improve infrastructure are limited and I believe the lorry park was pulled, in part, to allow the necessary improvement to Customs facilities be prioritised over the potential threat of Op Stack, which has not happened for 2 ½ years.
e. With the Lower Thames Crossing going forward there will be a huge increase to the volume of cross channel freight traffic using the M2. Therefore, any assessment of what is required would have to recognise the need for Lorry Park capacity on the M2 rather than putting everything on the M20.
Overall I believe the need to address the impact of BREXIT within a limited time frame, with limited funds is one the key reasons why the current Lorry Park proposal was pulled yesterday.
And, whatever the future brings, remember that as of today we as a community took on the Government and won when nobody gave us a chance. Be proud of that achievement and look forward to a Christmas without Lorry Parks