Some 60 people gathered in the rain (an incredible event in itself this summer!) near Lenham on Friday (July 20) to air and share their worries that a giant lorry park could be built in the area.
The meeting had been organised by landowners Kenneth and Sally Alexander in response to a letter from Highways England (HE) telling them an ecological survey was to be carried out on their land near Boughton Malherbe in relation to its potential as a site for such a development.
Helen Whately, Faversham and Mid Kent MP, was there to take questions and tell people what she knew about HE’s possible plans.
In truth, she revealed, that wasn’t very much as the process of finding a solution to congestion at the Channel crossings and on the M20 was only in the early stages, with HE simply going through the process of contacting landowners along the motorway route.
The concern of those who had turned out at Pope’s Hall, Sandway, was clear, with many fearing the ‘site’ – which lies south of the M20 roughly between Platt’s Heath, Boughton Malherbe and Bowley Farm – had been shortlisted for a lorry park.
However, Mrs Whately said she did not believe there was a shortlist, a view supported by county councillor Shellina Prendergast (Maidstone Rural East), who said HE had been in touch with a number of landowners, and indeed some landowners had contacted the agency about a possible lorry park.
She said HE expected to publish the results of its investigative work in November or December. There was a range of factors to be considered in addition to the ecological findings, most notably access, while it was not even known how much land would be needed.
Mrs Whately stated that Operation Stack had held back some 6,000 lorries at its peak, and that figure would need to be catered for.
She added that options outside Kent were being looked at, while it wasn’t certain whether one large holding park was the best option, as opposed to multiple smaller sites. There were also on-road solutions such as a moveable barrier to consider, as well as the matter of the M2/A2 corridor.
Some 150 parcels of land were being surveyed but, as some of these were conjoined, that didn’t equate to 150 sites.
Two representatives of CPRE Kent were present, one of whom, vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston, blasted the “appalling” communication from HE.
He highlighted the fact that a new range of properties were now blighted by the agency’s investigations and would be until a decision was made. HE needed to work to a strict timeline, he said.
Mrs Whately said she completely agreed.
Mr Knox-Johnston also said that the problem of lorry freight was a national problem and was not just to be dumped on Kent – HE should understand that.
Mrs Whately replied: “Yes, they should. It’s absolutely a national problem and should be recognised as such.”
While there was widespread acceptance that Kent would have to provide part of the solution, the idea that locations elsewhere in the country should also contribute drew perhaps the greatest showing of support of the meeting.
“Perhaps that what you should take away from here – this isn’t just about Kent,” said one gentleman.
No one disagreed.
Monday, July 23, 2018