'Betrayed': Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park

It was all quiet on the Dover front in the hours after the UK left the EU, as lorries continued to avoid the port.

But just minutes away, beyond the famous white cliffs, the sense of fury over Brexit was palpable as local residents came to terms with a government letter they received on New Year’s Eve telling them that from summer, their rural idyll of farmland and ancient Roman ways would be transformed into a customs clearance lorry park for 1,200 trucks.

The site is in addition to the the Ashford lorry park 22 miles away that barricades fields behind 4-metre fences.

Locals say they feel “betrayed” and “trapped” by the “lies” of the government over Brexit. Just as they were looking forward to a new year, the letter from the transport minister Rachel Maclean arrived advising them that the white cliffs site had been purchased and would be used as an “Inland Border Facility” from July.

“I am absolutely devastated,” said Charlotte Ashmore, who lives on a short row of period cottages overlooking the vast site, acquired under special legislation.

The Green party coordinator for Deal and Dover, Sarah Gleave, said residents had been kept in the dark and feared they had no way of stopping construction.

'Betrayed': Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park

She was told in a freedom of information disclosure by Kent county council, seen by the Guardian, that the white cliffs site would take over from Manston airport, where thousands of lorries were held last week after the French Covid border closure.

Work is expected to start in days, and residents in the tiny villages of Whitfield and Guston that shoulder the site say the park will destroy the quality of their lives, wreck the environment including an ancient Roman right of way across the fields, and bring non-stop light and noise pollution.

“My son has autism and we only moved here two years ago because of the calmness here. He doesn’t like noise and he doesn’t like light and he’s really anxious about this.

He doesn’t want a lorry park here,” said Ashmore of her six-year-old, Nathan.

“I’m considering putting the house on the market but we’ve just got a new five-year mortgage so we are trapped,” she added.

'Betrayed': Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park

Like her neighbour Mick Palmer, she complains about the lack of consultation, saying the Department for Transport has given just “brief facts”.

A former HGV international driver, Palmer is all too familiar with the need for lorry parks where drivers can rest up, wash and eat. He doesn’t believe the government claim that lorries will be required only to drive in, get their customs paperwork cleared and drive out again.

“I’ve been here for 36 years and I would have been for all my life. They have just told lie after lie after lie.

Never has a country treated its people so badly,” he said, adding that Westminster “bigwigs” had no interest in the consequences of their decisions.

“They say it’s not going to be a lorry park but a customs clearance site and lorries will only be here for 20 minutes.

“I know exactly what will happen. Lorries have nowhere to park in Kent, and they will come in here and stop and wave their tachograph and say: ‘I’m not moving.’

“They will have to have floodlights, power points for refrigerated lorries, which means generators going all night.

“We heard this might happen and they said they might start digging on 3 January. We went to a local meeting with some officials and asked how many of them had come down here to look at the site.

Not one of them. They don’t know our lives; they don’t know the impact on our lives,” he said.

Residents say they have seen the 5-metre wooden fencing at the Ashford lorry park up the road, which has destroyed hedgerows and sweeping country views for walkers and residents. They fear they will face the same but just 25 metres away from their doors.

“It is absolutely crazy.

We have got to stop this,” said Palmer.

'Betrayed': Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park

Gleave is desperately concerned about the impact on the environment. “People only hear about the port, but this is the North Downs way, the main footpath that goes across the county of Kent. It has fantastic wildlife, and is an area of fantastic food production, which is important post-Brexit, and the last thing we want to do is to destroy it.

“The village of Guston is a wonderful community. People are here for the tranquility and community.

They don’t have clout, but they are fighting it.

'Betrayed': Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park

Sharon McCartney is one of those residents, out walking with her daughter, Missy, and their dog, Violet. “I am disgusted,” she said. “You can already hear the hum of the A2 but it doesn’t bother me when we are in the garden.

But what is it going to be like with 1,200 lorries?”

Missy, 17, is also devastated. “I use that Roman road to go into town.

In the summer it’s one of the best walks you can do.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson denied the site was a replacement for Manston.

It said the facility would bring local jobs and “further planning consent” requirements would allow locals to express their views.

They added: “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 movements.”

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