Video report by ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw
Residents in the village of Guston, near Dover, have stepped up their campaign against a planned new lorry park for border checks.
They are calling for at least a 50-metre ‘buffer zone’ between their front gardens and the perimeter fence of the customs control post.
The government confirmed in a letter on New Year’s Eve that it had purchased the farmers’ fields close to the White Cliffs Business Park, approximately 3 miles from the Port of Dover.
Ministers hopes to have the facility open by July, with capacity for between 600 and 1,200 lorries, depending on the final design.
It will join four other Inland Border Facilities in Kent – Sevington, Waterbrook, Ebbsfleet and Manston.
Jane Dunford, whose house overlooks the site, told ITV News Meridian she doesn’t feel anyone in authority is listening to residents’ concerns.
We’d like them to consider at least a 50-metre buffer zone before the first fence, which would be planted with some native trees and flora. We live just metres away from this park and we’d like someone to listen to our case, and we don’t feel that’s happening.
Building work has now started, with various diggers and workers seen on the vast greenfield site. Initial work will involve clearing the grass and vegetation, according to a letter sent to residents.
Mick Palmer, who also lives nearby, said the way government’s handling the process is “crazy”.
They’ve had three years now to construct this and consult us. But they’ve come in with bulldozers and said ‘we’re doing this, we’re doing it then’. With one month’s warning that the diggers are coming in. It’s just madness.
Dover MP, Natalie Elphicke (Con), said she’s working with residents to make sure their concerns are raised directly with the relevant minister and officials – but overall she supports the scheme.
Ms Elphicke added: “We have the opportunity, now we’ve left the EU, to ensure we get more of our fair share of jobs and money. The proposals to invest in Dover at a new border control point are an exciting and important strategic opportunity for our community.”
ITV News Meridian first broke the news last November that the site in Guston had been earmarked as a potential location for a border post.
Some are still campaigning for an entire rethink on the project, and argue other sites would be better suited.
Sarah Gleave, Coordinator at the Dover and Deal Green Party, said: “We think this location should really be challenged. We think it’s poorly planned and is potentially dangerous, if it’s proved the flyover built over 40 years ago isn’t up to carrying all the extra freight traffic.”
In a statement a Department for Transport spokesperson said:
“Purchasing the White Cliffs site in Dover will allow the Government to set up an inland facility with easy access to the Port, which does not itself have the space needed for extended checks.
“We understand concerns about resulting disruption, which is why we are working with the relevant authorities and our principal designer to ensure the surrounding roads are not negatively impacted by increased HGV traffic.
“The development of this site, which will bring local jobs, will require additional planning consent and residents will have further opportunity to express their views as part of that process.”
The government is using a special development order to build the site, bypassing the usual planning process, but officials insist residents will be able to provide feedback on the proposals in the coming months.