On Wednesday this week I will be leading a House of Commons debate in Westminster Hall, on Operation Stack, and the management HGV lorries in Kent. The timing of this debate is significant, as the judicial review that has been lodged against the plans to create an Operation Stack relief lorry park to the west of Stanford village, and off of the M20, will be heard before Christmas. There is also growing interest in the role that could be played by a facility like this, as the government’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union start to consider our future trading relationship with the rest of the continent. Clearly, if any changes to our terms of trade with the EU slowed down the movement of freight across the Channel, even to a small extent, we would need to have the infrastructure in place to cope with it. We know from experience the delays that can already occur because of French strike action, bad weather or an insufficient number of border officials being on duty.
Following the crisis in 2015, when Operation Stack was enforced for 32 days, leading to the closure of the coast bound carriageway of the M20 motorway, and causing gridlock on other major roads in Kent, I have been committed to the government funding a long-term solution to this problem. This requires finding a way of keeping the M20 open in both directions, even when lorries are queuing to leave the country through the Port of Dover of the Channel Tunnel. The government’s proposed £250million investment in the lorry park, located either side of the motorway to the west of junction 11, has been designed to accomodate the equivalent number of vehicles as are currently held in phases 1 and 2 of Operation Stack. We were promised this would be delivered at pace, and with Britain’s exit from the EU commencing in spring 2019, this is more important than ever.
There is no doubt that a combination of the judicial review and a general election this year have delayed things. This has caused problems as well for local businesses and residents who were in negotiations with Highways England over the compensation they would be due because of the construction of the lorry park. I would like to see if it is possible to reach an agreement with all parties before judicial review hearing in December, so that these issues can be resolved and the building of the lorry park commence.
Last Friday I was delighted to visit the Daleacres caravan and motorhome club site in West Hythe, to hear more about their plans to invest in the facilities they offer to visitors to our area. Their stunning location on the edge of Romney Marsh and beneath the Lympne escarpment has made their site a popular attraction for many years. Tourism is already one of our major local employers and it is great to see that increasing numbers of visitors from the rest of Europe, as well as the UK, are choosing to spend all or part of the holidays here. Over the last year I have been pleased to visit a number of local businesses that are investing in their facilities to meet this increased demand and interest.