Statement from Dover and Deal Green Party
Dover and Deal Green Party stands with Guston Village and Guston Parish Council in their David and Goliath struggle with the Dept of Transport and Conservative Govt in London.
On 31st December 2020, residents of peaceful Guston village, perched 1 mile inland from Dover Castle, received a letter from the under secretary of state, Rachel Maclean MP.
It announced that the Dept of Transport had bought the 2 arable fields next to their homes and work to construct an Inland Border Clearance site for 1200 HGV capacity would start January 2021. The letter says the govt will push through further planning consent using a Special Development Order, and promises robust mitigation with light buffers and air pollution monitors. But distrust of such promises prevails in Guston. The clearance facility plans to open 1stJuly 2021 at which point Manston Airport, Thanet, will no longer be used as a temporary border clearance site.
2 months earlier, on 21st Oct, the Labour opposition at Dover District put a motion, (voted through unanimously with Conservative support and a couple of amendments) to force the ministry to disclose their plans and level with Dover District population and Guston villagers about the border clearance plans, after the minister had refused to answer DDC councillors’ questions earlier.
In fact, concerns have been growing since July 2020 when a whistleblower revealed to Bloomberg the site of the clearance park on arable fields between Dover Leisure Centre at Whitfield and Guston village next to a road bridge spanning the non-dualled A2.
Guston is one of the most charming, best governed parishes in East Kent with the popular Chance Inn, a prize-winning recreation area, the historic St Martin’s church, a beautiful solar-paneled village hall, and a solar farm. Many residents choose to live there for the peace and quiet and the beautiful walks down into Dover town including the North Downs Way (or ‘Roman Way’). Furious residents, say their lives will be ‘slaughtered’ by the ‘completely undemocratic’ imposition of the Inland Border facility on the edge of Guston. Mr Mick Palmer, resident and ex-HGV driver, said, “Never has a country treated its people so badly, They have told lie after lie after lie. They will have to have floodlights and power points for refrigerated lorries, which means generators going all night.” Guston Parish Council is quoted publicly as saying, ‘it is actively working to prevent such a development” and is taking legal advice.
Sarah Gleave, representing Dover and Deal Green Party, said, ‘ it’s clear the central Conservative government in London don’t give even half a hoot for residents of Dover district, who were promised frictionless freight flow. Everyone in Dover district deserves so much better than this. The government, and Ms Elphicke, Dover’s MP, are denying the horrific impact this clearance facility will have on Guston people and the whole area, they are saying suck up the new jobs created by new red tape. But we were told in an FoI reply from DDC that DDC economic forecasters have no idea if there will be any net jobs gain when the job losses to our tourism, staycation and exporting sectors arising from traffic and border problems are set against new jobs which may be created by clearance agencies. The Kent Downs AONB curls round Dover, metres away from the location of this site, and farming, food production in our district is important post-Brexit. Far too little thought and local consultation has gone into this government decision. DDC cabinet and KCC have been noticeable absent in offering support to Guston Parish Council’.
To complicate matters, Dover District and Kent County Councils plans for the site, are to run a new road across the same fields so that a new ‘Fast-track bus and cycle route’ can allow commuters in the soon-to-be expanded village of Whitfield to catch trains at Dover Priory Station and leave the car at home. But this makes locals wonder if at any point, during new dual carriage-way A2 construction for example, the new bus route might temporarily be pushed into service for HGVs. In a response to a Freedom of information request (from Green Party campaigner, Sarah Gleave), KCC -Kent County Council – said this would not happen and all HVGs would use Jubilee Way, A2 and the junction with A256 to the B &Q roundabout. Residents around Deal who use the Duke of York’s roundabout (junction A2 / A258), are expecting traffic jams to arise when and if imports and exports pick up post-Brexit, as lorries come up from the docks, park up for clearance and port health procedures and then either head on up the A2 towards Canterbury or return down to Dover to join the A20/M20. Will the shops and Leisure Centre in White Cliffs Business Park experience a drop off in trade if locals choose to go elsewhere because of such traffic jams ?
A drop-in, Covid-compliant protest against the lorry park was held on 3rd Oct, and publicised when the Dover and Deal Green Party activists leafleted villages letting residents know of the government plans. Estimates of the capacity of the Inland Border facility range from 671 to 1200.