Original thinking serves up fresh ideas
The announcement of a huge lorry park off the M20 has sparked protests by villagers close to the proposed site but prompted some interesting alternatives suggested by Kent residents. reports
One of the criticisms levelled at Highways England during the Operation Stack lorry park consultation was that it had not thought outside the box.
The proposals for a minimum 3,600 space lorry park at Stanford have been described by residents all along the M20 corridor as a knee-jerk reaction and plonking concrete down to cover the symptoms rather than the cause of disruption but the Express has been contacted several times already from readers about their thoughts on the ways to solve Operation Stack.
Some of the solutions are somewhat different, involving a new relief road, dredging one of the busiest ports in the country and redeveloping a racecourse to include lorry parking provision.
Brian Marchant from Ashford is a retired lorry driver who had a 30-year career on the roads. He says he believes the best solution is to build “an entirely new road”.
His idea is for a new dual carriageway with hard shoulder relief road that runs alongside the M20 between junctions 8 and 9.
Two of the three lanes in each direction would be shut to allow lorries to stack, creating about 26 miles of road to use. The rest of the time it would operate as a normal dual carriageway, Mr Marchant says.
He feels it would also be able to cope with accidents on the M20 which cause delays and says it will benefit in several ways and also be able to cope with off-road facilities at two locations on the route.
He said: “It would bypass all villages from Maidstone to Ashford causing less congestion and drastically lower pollution levels from slow moving and stationary traffic.
“Emergency vehicles will have clear access to surrounding villages even in times of Operation Stack. It will prevent drivers using country lanes as a short cut making them much safer to use for local residents.
“At this moment it will be affecting between 12 and 18 houses,” he added.
“That’s a rough estimate but you’ve got 200 down there at Stanford that would be affected.
He says toilet facilities can be brought in when they are required much like the system in place last summer.
Another idea takes in the redevelopment plans around Westenhanger and Folkestone Racecourse. The area has again come into the public eye after Shepway District Council bought 350 acres of farmland near to the racecourse earlier this year for £5.2 million.
Suggestions are being made that the council aims to revive its masterplan to redevelop Westenhanger but the council is remaining tight-lipped on its plans for the site.
Proposals for 820 houses were rejected by a government’s planning inspector before SDC’s latest planning blueprint was adopted in 2013 without Westenhanger included.
Folkestone architect Roger Joyce has long been a supporter of developing Westenhanger into a new community with housing, a redeveloped racecourse with conference facilities and parkway station attached to the HS1 link.
He believes it could also be incorporated with lorry parking facilities in an area used as a new county showground and the proposals for lorry parking between the M20 and railway line.
He says he hopes this would “create a legacy out of the lorry park” and would require “some imagination and intelligent planning, something that SDC and the cabinet lack”.
Of course much of the impact is thought to be centred around Ashford, Folkestone and the M20 communities but another option put forward is to reclaim an area of the sea to the east of Shakespeare cliff near Dover harbour capable of holding the 3,600 lorries Highways England has stated is the minimum requirement.
Ron Kennedy says Dover Harbour Board should bear some responsibility for the “exponential growth” expected at the port in the future and proposals for adding just 220 spaces to its current capacity inside the port.
Mr Kennedy said: “The facility would provide overnight parking for freight traffic prior to and post boarding Channel ferries and for those travelling to the continent.
“Customs and Excise would have a larger area in which to contain vehicles for inspection.”
Dover Eastern Docks; Old lorry park at junction 11 on the M20; Operation Stack between junctions 9 and 10 of the M20
The proposed site of the lorry park near junction 11 on the M20
Folkestone architect Roger Joyce has suggested incorporating the lorry park into a redeveloped Westenhanger, left