Lorry park plan approved as wider vision remains ‘ambition’
One of the UK's largest fresh produce companies has gained the go-ahead to open a lorry park at its Canterbury base. Council officers rubber-stamped A Gomez's plans to reconfigure its site off Coldharbour Lane, Bridge, to make room for an increased number of HGVs to stay overnight.
The firm has gained permission for the scheme
The firm says the 24-hour site, which will cater for 26 lorries, can help free up lay-bys on the surrounding road network. Truckers for Gomez will be able to use existing toilet and shower facilities at the base, which has been in operation since 1989.
Lorry parks in Kent have been a key topic in recent years, with various locations being eyed up - and confirmed - for development.
An envisaged Brexit customs site in Whitfield was scrapped earlier this year, while Ashford now boasts Europe's largest lorry park and the infamous Sevington inland border facility. Swale and Canterbury councils together began exploring the option of building a lorry park off the A2 near Faversham in 2019.
There remains a hope to open a lorry park near to Brenley Corner in the future
Authority bosses were considering a plot of land near Brenley Corner roundabout to address the "urgent and unmet" need for official HGV parking - however the vision was dropped in January 2020. Canterbury council leader Ben Fitter-Harding, whose predecessors were originally involved in the idea, says there remains hope the project could one day come to fruition.
"It remains an ambition - there were technical reasons previously which essentially knocked the plan on the head," he said.
"There was a political change at Swale and it was dropped. "There is still a will from us to do it, it depends on the willingness of Swale.
Council leader Ben Fitter-Harding
"Brenley Corner is the ideal place as it is such a key connectivity point. It makes great sense to have lorry parking facilities there."
"Our door is permanently open about the possibility for it as we want to take the pressure off lay-bys going down to Canterbury and Dover." While the Brenley Corner lorry park remains just an unconfirmed vision, Gomez can now go about making changes to its base to accommodate more of its own HGVs. Speaking to KentOnline earlier this year, chief site operations manager Neil Cook said: "Historically, there's always been the problem of drivers using the surrounding roads.
"(The new park) won't solve the problem, so I'm not saying it's going to be 100% successful, but it will be much more successful than the current situation of having lorries parked up on roads. "We have a lot of under-utilised car parking spaces, so the logical solution is to make extra room for lorries."
The A Gomez site outside Bridge
In total, 118 car parking spaces at the site are to be removed and a line of shrubbery and trees will be uprooted to make way for access. The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) group raised concerns over the removal of trees, stressing how the action would be "harmful" to the area.
However, planning officers at the city council dismissed the fears and determined that the work would "not unacceptably harm the wider landscape and scenic beauty of the surrounding AONB".