On the evening of Fri 29th January 2021, a well-informed senior source attached to the Port of Dover, spoke to Sarah Gleave, local Green Party Campaigner. This conversation flagged up various issues regarding the selection of the White Cliffs business park, Dover District’s only retail park, (and a site next door to the new, expensive Dover Leisure Centre), to become Dover’s Inland Border Facility.
- There was good reason to expect that the junction of A2 and A258 at the top of Jubilee Way, (the Duke of York’s roundabout) would suffer traffic jams, tail-backs to Deal, and accidents, with resulting problems for many residents across the district (and Port of Dover employees), because HGVs can’t be stacked on a non-dualled A2 north of Eastern Docks, if DfT insisted on ignoring local advice, and fails to shift the location to a site further inland up the A2 (where A2 dualled) which would be safer in terms of traffic and less damaging to the local economy.
- The East Cliff bridge / aka Jubilee Way, the non-dualled flyover bringing traffic up from Eastern docks to the undualled A2, had been fit for purpose in the 1970s, but this was no longer the case.
- People at POD, had ‘very grave doubts’ about the safety of the junction from the A256 onto the A2 also. This is where the port-bound slip road from the A256 joins a 100 metre dualled section of the A2 before the A2 becomes single carriageway to go under the B-road Guston bridge over the A2, effectively 3 lanes becoming 1 lane in a 100 metre stretch of road. ‘It is a wonder a serious road accident hasn’t happened this week with the traffic building up again’, as HGVs drivers, who’d had their Covid test at Manston, were shepherded down to Eastern Docks.
- In terms of resilience and flexibility of freight flow (to allow emergency vehicles through, etc), POD people believe that both the A20 IBF at Sevington and the A2 IBF somewhere near Dover, should have the capacity and staffing to do all forms of clearance and vehicle checks necessary, (biosecurity, port health, DEFRA issues and other), so that freight flow could be switched if necessary. If the Dover IBF were re-located along the A2, NW of Whitfield, north of the sections of non-dualled A2, this would reduce the time HGVs would spend rolling up and down Dover hills, in residential areas; shorten Dover dwell-time in Highways-speak.
- The safest option, in opinion of POD source, to save residents of Dover and its outlying villages of Whitfield and Guston, would be to invest in a new dualled bypass to swing north round Whitfield (which DDC plans to enlarge), round luxury Richmond Park development, round Guston to re-join Jubilee Way and A2.
- This 4th week of January, ro-ro traffic has picked up to be only 10% down on the same week last year, and so POD are not too worried at losing trade to the new direct Ireland/ France ferries, because being only daily sailings, the long Rosslare – Dunkirk route doesn’t offer the flexibility of Dover where there are many more sailings per day.
Another well-informed source, Kent County councillor Geoff Lymer, has suggested a different alternative site at Tilmanstone ex colliery site, just off the roundabout north of Whitfield on the dualled A256, near Tilmanstone Salads, and said ‘at least at this site, trucks could be stacked on the inside lane without holding up local traffic, and the geology means there would be less risk of sink-holes appearing than at the White Cliffs site’.
Even though London government’s Department for Transport are pushing through their ill-judged plan at break-neck pace using a Special Development Order, more and more local people are writing to the Local Planning Authority, DDC, and councillors, begging for DDC to insist on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the White Cliffs site that DfT want to dodge, especially because the land is subject to flooding which overflows onto the non-dualled A2 at that point. Few local people believe government’s claim that they only want the land for 5 years to build the IBF on, and then it will disappear in a puff of smoke. Guston Parish Council have taken on a legal team with specialist and local knowledge to defend their desperately unhappy residents.
On Tuesday 26th January, Deal Town Council voted unanimously to send in objections to DfT about the siting of the IBF and ask that it be re-located, thus joining St Margaret’s Parish Council and Langdon Parish Council who have done the same.
Green cllr Mike Eddy said, "It is evident to everyone in the district that residents in Deal, Walmer and all of the villages and the small businesses that depend on our great green tourism economy will suffer if govt pushes ahead, in this ignorant fashion.The stay-cation economy on which jobs depend stretching from Deal, through the campsites and holiday parks of villages and coast, up to NT visitor centre at White Cliffs, and EH Dover Castle all depend on the Duke of York’s junction mentioned above."
All 10 Green Party town and parish councillors across the district jointly sent in a protest to the undersecretary of Transport, Rachel Maclean MP on 20th January.
Sarah Gleave said, "We’re coming together across the district to do everything we can, to stand up to ill-informed bullies in Government. Nobody in Dover District deserves to have their lives wrecked, by losing the green hills they love, their right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes and surroundings, or by suffering a road accident. Diesel fumes will not be good for the lungs of anybody, especially not the teenagers in the 2 secondary schools which will have the IBF on their doorstep. I’ve had people in tears about the injustice, the secretive, bullying way that government and, sadly, Dover’s MP, are shoving this site down local throats and washing their hands of the problem that they’ve created and failed to plan for, or consult on, making people a prisoner in their own home."
Gleave added, "Scores of people have asked me how they can protest safely under the lockdown restrictions that the government are taking advantage of, the village of Guston petition has almost 2000 signatures. I’ve had retail managers at the retail park tell me they are expecting a drop- off in trade because people won’t want to risk traffic accidents or traffic jam. A well-informed local Border Force officer told me, yes colleagues of his are due to be working on trades clearance at the Dover IBF, and yes they do privately think choosing the White Cliffs business and retail park is very ill-advised, and that the IBF should be re-located. We need DDC conservative cabinet members to show backbone and to force government to show Dover some respect and select a less damaging location for the Dover IBF."
At Dover DC meeting on 27th January 2021, Leader of Opposition, Labour cllr Kevin Mills referred to further gridlock like that of Christmas week will arise from the siting of IBF whose proximity to the port was a problem, and to the ‘details that have not been provided to the council by DfT, details urgently needed so that DDC could formulate an adequate planning response. He said DfT are driving this through under an SDO and the district council are going into this blindfolded and with at least one hand tied behind our backs. The residents don’t believe for one moment they’ve been given fair treatment by DfT in London.’ DDC are holding an Extraordinary meeting on 9th Feb 2021 the day before DfT ‘engagement process’ ends on 10th Feb, the date was extended.