Customs facility at Waterbrook
Ahead of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October, the Government has been working on contingency plans and preparations to minimise the impact on the UK border.
Part of these plans includes introducing a small number of additional locations to handle customs administration, one of them is at Waterbrook. This site has been chosen because of its proximity to the M20 and the existing capacity for lorries to park at Ashford International Truck Stop.
Ashford Borough Council was notified about this proposal by government officials during the last couple of weeks, and council staff have been working with the Government to support their aims, while making sure Ashford’s best interests are upheld and that any impact is mitigated as much as possible.
Due to the urgency and national need for the site to be operational by 31 October the Ministry of Housing & Local Government (MHCLG) have received and approved a temporary planning permission until the end of 2020 through a Special Development Order (SDO) under s59 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This means the usual process of submitting a planning application to the local authority and the subsequent consultation with them is not required.
HMRC has completed the necessary environmental studies in liaison with the Environment Agency and Natural England. The arrangements subject to the SDOs would be temporary and designed to cause no long-term issues, or environmental impacts.
The sites will be used for starting and ending Common Transit Convention (CTC) movements, the processing of ATA Carnets (which give permission to temporarily import or export goods) and for carrying out border readiness checks.
The DfT also plan to use Ashford as a holding facility (known as turnaround or turn back location) for HGVs which have been through border readiness checks in Operation Brock and have been found to have incomplete border documents. Here, hauliers will have a facility to park safely and receive guidance on getting border ready. Those hauliers who follow the rules and ensure they have the necessary paper work will not be delayed or asked to go to a turnback site.
The site would only be used in the event of a no-deal EU exit, and this use will remain under constant review.
You can find out more information from the government website. There is also more information on the Ashford Borough Council website.
This site was due to be operational from 31 January 2020. However, we now know we will leave the EU on 31 January under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. Consequently, the site is no longer needed for now, so HMRC will secure the premises and review their requirements in the context of the UK's future partnership with the EU. They will provide an update on their decision in the coming months.
HMRC have sent letters to residents who live close to the site and might be affected. View the HMRC letter to residents [pdf] 164KB.