Manston lorry parking ‘unviable’ solution to traffic chaos

The owners of Manston Airport say they are baffled their offer to again provide the site for lorry parking has been snubbed by the Department for Transport. The government had recently approached RiverOak, asking if the facility could be made available to help ease long HGV queues and traffic tailbacks on the M20 and around Dover.

RiverOak boss Tony Freudmann says the airport is available for lorry parking RiverOak boss Tony Freudmann says the airport is available for lorry parking

But the company says it has heard nothing back and now must consider other inquiries – including from film companies – while it awaits a new decision on its application for a development consent order to create a new air freight hub. The airport proved vital in 2020 at the height of the pandemic as a Covid testing centre for drivers with up to 4,000 vehicles parked on the runway.

Now, with ongoing delays at Dover causing chaos on the motorway and surrounding roads, which is predicted to get worse this summer, the DfT has implemented Operation Brock but is being urged to find an alternative solution.

RiverOak boss Tony Freudmann says he has heard nothing back from the DfT since receiving the ‘informal’ approach. But other sources have told him the government now doesn’t consider the arrangement ‘viable’.

Operation Brock is causing huge tailbacks on the M20 Operation Brock is causing huge tailbacks on the M20

“I don’t understand what the problem is because I would have thought the government could easily and quickly grant itself the various permissions again,” he said. “Obviously, we would like to help if we can and certainly want people to know we have made the offer.

“If we get the development consent order to re-open the airport as we hope, it is unlikely that any work will take place for a year so the site is available.

“The trouble is that we are getting other approaches to use the site who we are having to put on hold at the moment.” RiverOak hopes to finally get planning consent for its planned ‘carbon neutral’ air freight hub, which could later develop for passenger services, creating up to 3,000 jobs. It says a decision could be announced on the government’s planning portal at any time.

A DfT spokesman confirmed Manston was not considered viable for lorry parking “for reasons that would not be appropriate to discuss with the media”. He added: “An exceptionally high number of people travelling this half-term, compounded by P&O Ferries still not running all of its ferry sailings, means that unfortunately the roads in Kent are extremely busy. “We strongly recommend passengers check the latest advice from their operators before travelling.

“We are working with the Kent Resilience Forum, police and regional leaders as they continue to do everything they can to ease disruption and provide on the ground support for everyone.”