The UK government has spent almost £6m renting Kent’s Manston Airport as an emergency parking area in case of Operation Stack, but never used it
The figures relate to the period August 2015 to 15 December, 2017.
The arrangement was agreed in 2015 after the M20 was shut for more than 30 days, creating chaos in the county and losing businesses millions of pounds. At the time, the plan was criticised as “crackpot” by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale and Kent Police expressed reservations about the location.
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.”
However, The Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling expressed a different point of view. “While the price of renting Manston Airport might appear high, the cost of failing to prepare for a possible closure of the Port of Dover would be far greater for the local community, and business as a whole across the country.”
“When Operation Stack is implemented, the money lost by UK businesses runs into many millions of pounds, not to mention the cost to the Kent economy and massive disruption to local residents. FTA would like to see a viable long-term solution to closures at Dover, which addresses the needs of the logistics industry and Kent residents, such as the proposed parking area near the village of Stanford. However, until such a solution is put in place, the cost of renting Manston is an insurance policy we cannot afford to lose.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said, “We are keeping Manston Airfield as an option for holding lorries in the event of Operation Stack being put in place again, as it is currently the only site offering sufficient space in the immediate area.”
Photo: Operation Stack caused the M20 to be closed for more than 30 days in 2015.