The government has paid the owners of Manston Airport in Kent more than £5.7m to retain it as an emergency lorry parking area if Operation Stack is used.

The figure was finally released after an internal review was conducted of the DfT decision not to release the figure.

Senior civil servant Anthony Ferguson said that “the strong case in favour of disclosure is not outweighed by the arguments against”.

As a result, in a letter released to, Ferguson said that between August 2015 and 15 December 2017, the DfT paid £5,742,011.73 to the owner.

The former airport has never been used to park lorries, but the DfT has regularly made payments to the land owner in order to keep it available should an emergency parking situation arises.

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The agreement followed the crisis that engulfed Kent’s roads during the summer of 2015, when Operation Stack was invoked on a record 32 occasions and cost the economy an estimated £250m a day.

The DfT had argued that releasing the figure could prejudice future negotiations to build a permanent lorry park, but Ferguson criticised this “incomplete and unnecessarily narrow” reason.

He said that while it was credible that the government’s negotiating position could be weakened by the disclosure and affect its ability to secure value for money, he was “not persuaded about the likelihood of it occurring given the particular circumstances of the arrangement at Manston airport”.

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.”

“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,“ he continued.

“The taxpayer and the haulier are suffering. We need secure lorry parks, not more sticking plasters and punitive measures.”


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