Here is Debbie Burton’s take on the meeting with Highways England 4.8.16
Present for HE: Adrian Sheppard, programme manager;
Paul Kelly from their PR company
Present for Stanford PC and SOS Kent:
Matthew Webb Chairman SPC
Geoff Colledge, Councillor SPC
David Keating, Councillor SPC
Pete Maddox, Councillor SPC
Peter Bebbington, Councillor SPC
Sharon Hayles, SOS Group
Jeff Alchin, SOS Group
Debbie Burton, SOS Group
Denise Alchin, SOS Group
HE started by apologising for not being able to share as much information as they had intended, eg, latest site plans and other technical detail, still being signed off by DfT.
Another Non-Statutory Consultation (and the ONLY consultation to come before construction) to start within weeks and duration of 6 weeks. Construction is planned to start Nov-Dec 2016.
Projects of this nature would normally follow a Statutory consultation at this stage with a complete Environmental Impact Assessment. However, in this case the process is being driven by unreasonable deadlines from the Secretary of State for Transport and because it has been rushed through there is not enough detail known about the project to follow that process, and to provide the EIA etc which would be needed at the Statutory consultation stage…
So another NON-STATUOTRY consultation will be held instead. This will include HE providing an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, which essentially means a report on the incomplete state of affairs as they understand it at the time.
Based on the public feedback given during this 6 week consultation, HE will present it to Sec of State and he will decide whether to push on. But we were assured that these comments could shape the design of, for instance, mitigation landscaping, security measures etc.
Although this is unprecedented, HE believes this is a legal process.
Size of plot: MISLEADING.
The original HE literature shows the proposed size of site was for 152 acres. Adrian Sheppard maintains that the plans have always been for a 250 acre site. The 150 acre size has never been corrected by HE to be 250 acres until it emerged in the very recent one to one discussions with immediate residents – and 150 acres was even discussed at the Transport Select Committee. This means that the TSC objections were made on the basis of the smaller site. Adrian and Paul apologised for the discrepancy and confirmed that we would receive an explanation for this in due course. We are left wondering whether this was deliberately misleading or not.
HE need no permission to compulsory purchase within 880m of centre of adjoining highway. There is no plan for the site to be extended at a later date, but no guarantee that it will not.
AS confirmed he would confirm the actual total lorry parking area within this site.
Proposed uses and roll-out: UNCERTAIN
The HE preferred proposal is for:
The South side to be used for overnight parking and Op Stack, with a new low level, landscaped facilities block 2-3 times larger than those currently at the Ashford lorry park. Access will be via Stop 24. The overnight parking bays will be laid out differently to the Stack bays.
The North side used for stack only, with slip roads from and to the southbound M20, plus toll or check-in booths and a 2-way bridge from the north to the south side (approx level with Holmdene). Portaloos may be brought in as needed, or smaller 4-6 cubicle toilet blocks may be built. Hazardous loads will be parked separately from the rest and refrigerated units will be parked as far from dwellings as possible, to reduce noise.
If HE cannot resolve certain issues with Westenhanger Castle the South side would then only be used for Op Stack and the overnight parking and facilties will be moved to the North side.
There are also considerations to be taken account of the listed windmill on the North side.
Whichever use is finally agreed, there is no guarantee that this may not change.
We were categorically told that this ‘lorry area’ is NOT designed for any traffic other than HGVs, ie, no cars.
Roll-out is expected to be starting with construction on the South side, then during that build, to commence the North side. Or maybe not, if the issues with the castle cannot be resolved. The complete build is expected to take 12 months.
Due to this project being driven by deadlines, despite Balfour Mott MacDonald being involved and carrying out designs since October 2015, the design is incomplete. It will be modified as the project progresses according to budget and possibly input from residents and other bodies taken on board.
Mitigation: Landscaping will mitigate visual, noise and emissions concerns. Levels will depend upon proximity to residents, which may include planted bunds 2-5m high, unknown distance from boundaries of adjoining properties. It may include high security fencing topped with razor wire. The surface is not yet finalised and may be a mix of concrete, tarmac and open block.
Access: there will be no additional vehicular access other than new slip roads and internal bridge. Emergency services are apparently happy with this arrangement. The current rights of way will be maintained, so there will be various points of pedestrian access (locked during stack) which may or may not be manned at other times. HE envisage no access through village during construction, but will use the newly constructed slip roads.
Operation: UNKNOWN (Operators = ZERO)
To date no one has been found willing to operate a site of this nature, despite all the cross-Channel operators, MOTIS and other specialist operators having been asked. All have declined.
The Kent Police do not wish to be involved. (They were never paid for the last episode).
Despite the absence of an operator, the lorry area can be built to completion. (with occasional input from various operators).
Compensation: UNDISCLOSED AND CONFUSING
Whilst a sum has been allocated for compensation, Adrian would not disclose what that was. He said there is likely to be a three tier system for scale of blight.
To date residents have found the independent ‘expert’ on hand at one to one meetings to be inadequate. We understand that no claim can be made until a year and a day has passed since completion of the project. One wonders what will happen if it is built but never formally ‘completed’.
Other questions to HE:
Q. What happens if you run out of money?
A.It has to be delivered within the total of £250m
Q.What will be the first area to be compromised in the event of budget being exceeded?
A. Don’t know
Q. What will happen if you don’t find an operator?
A. Don’t know
Q. Who will call Operation Stack if the lorry park is complete?
A. Don’t know
It is almost inconceivable that a project of this magnitude, at a cost of £250m of taxpayers’ money, can be allowed to proceed, excluding itself from usual process, with so much uncertainty. Yet it is happening.
It is unbelievable that, in order to deliver ‘at pace’ the (flawed) strategy for its build in the first place has been overlooked. Stack has not been in operation for over a year. The unique causes of that episode have largely been addressed.
Additional fencing was put in place and the migrant camp moved to almost eliminate the risk of disruption due to migrant activity.
Port of Dover and Eurotunnel have significantly increased lorry waiting spaces. This, together with increased cross-Channel frequency and capacity, has alleviated all ‘normal’ disruption.
Operation Stack only typically lasts a few hours, so any unlikely future need for it may well be over by the time staff and facilities are mobilised to a lorry park lying dormant.
A monstrous lorry park was NEVER a solution ANYWHERE. Even more now, it is wrong to proceed with this proposed lorry park 1.5 times the size of Disneyland and we are urgently pursuing the possibility of a judicial challenge.