The government has pulled the plug on the planned lorry park in Stanford West, which was selected as a solution to the chronic congestion caused by Operation Stack.
The collapse of the planned lorry park contingency means there will be no alternative to Operation Stack until March 2019 at the earliest.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne committed £250m to the site in 2015 to relieve congestion on the M20 when Operation stack is in place in 2015, after a summer of disruption led to 30 days of queued HGVs on the motorway.
However campaigners against the site were granted a judicial review on the grounds that an environmental impact assessment work on the site had been inadequate.
Today (15 November) transport minister Chris Grayling announced that plans to build the lorry park had been withdrawn, as the government could “no longer defend the judicial review”.
Grayling said the DfT is already working on a new truck park in the area, which would be subject to a full environmental impact assessment and consider factors which had changed since Stanford West was selected in 2015.
These include upcoming Brexit and the ongoing general parking shortage in Kent.
However planning permission for this site is not expected to be filed until March 2019.
Grayling added that he had instructed Highways England to find a temporary solution for Operation Stack, with an implementation deadline of March 2019.
He said the agency had already developed a number of options including queuing lorries in the middle of the M20 instead of coast-bound lanes, and moveable lane barriers.
“A final decision on which option to take forward will be made in early 2018, with a view to completing delivery by March 2019,” he added.
- Pressure mounting on government to settle Standford West lorry park row ahead of court hearing
- Judicial review could delay Operation Stack truck park alternative
- No lorry park alternative to Operation Stack until at least 2018
The FTA said the removal of the Stanford West lorry park plans was a “major disappointment” and that the lack of an Operation Stack solution could be a “major problem” for the logistics sector.
Head of regional and national policy Christopher Snelling said: “That this application has to be withdrawn is a major disappointment and means a proper management of a Stack situation may be many more years off”.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett added that it was “beyond belief” that “the most basic of procedures, that of an environmental assessment was not undertaken simply on the assumption that it was not needed”.
He added: “This red-tape debacle is a complete disaster for hauliers coming over from the Continent. Two years ago we saw the misery of operators who, for many days, were caught up in the gridlock of Operation Stack.
“Even the most basic requirements for HGV drivers such as toilet facilities and drinking water were non-existent. And for the people and economy of Kent, the cost was enormous.”
It came as a new report from MPs warned that HMRC's replacement customs system might not be fit for purpose when it goes live months before Brexit and could cause chaos at UK ports.