Residents of the village of Guston in Kent, in Southern England, have accused the government of “unethical, immoral and unprincipled” behavior over the way it has taken control of land near their homes to build a Brexit customs clearance site with capacity for 1,200 lorries.
The site is close to the key port of Dover, Britain’s main trade artery with mainland Europe, which has already experienced huge tailbacks and disruption since the completion of the Brexit process on Jan 1. Further delays are expected to cause even bigger problems when the port becomes busier.
“The disgraceful thing about all of this was there was absolutely no consultation whatsoever with people in the local area or the residents who are going to be most affected, to whom these plans came as a complete shock,” local resident Peter Sherred told The Guardian newspaper.
“We were told that at some stage in January we would be involved in an engagement process, where we would have been able to express our views, but I have to say I find that somewhat meaningless because as you can see they already have machines in the land, they have created an access route to the land and yet they say it will not be approved until after the engagement.
“I think the way they have handled it is unethical, immoral and unprincipled.”
The land, which has crops growing around it, had been subject to a Special Development Order and designated for commercial use for some time, but locals say this has been used by developers to hide from them the reality of what was planned.
The Department for Transport says this and other new facilities nearby are “planned for temporary use (until 2025) and … designed to ensure that there are no significant or long-term environmental effects”.
Resident and former international haulage driver Mick Guston told Kent Online that based on his professional knowledge, the long-term consequences were obvious.
“They keep telling us with the design of this property that it’s not going to be a truck stop,” he said. “Well it will be a truck stop because the lorry drivers will come into this country, or come here to go out of this country, and they’ll be out of drive time and they’ll say ‘I can’t move, even though I’m cleared from Customs, because I’m up on my drive time.’
“They’ll park up here and Customs can’t make them move.”
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said she appreciated their concerns but it was a “nationally critical piece of infrastructure … which will secure jobs and money for hundreds of local people”.