Garden city bosses have called for greater clarity over the proposed use of Ebbsfleet International station for Brexit after its sudden closure as a Coronavirus test centre.
Boris Johnson’s Government has earmarked it as a potential customs check point in the event the UK leaves without a deal, it is understood.
It comes after a Kent County Council letter was leaked showing that the Ebbsfleet Covid testing centre closed two weeks ago because it would be needed for HMRC for “inland border facilities” .
Precise use has not been confirmed but it is believed that one of Ebbsfleet station’s car parks would hold up to 80 lorries at a time and a booking system implemented for slots.
The decision has prompted fears locally that HGVs and lorries could be “stacked out” on the highway as a result.
Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC), the planning authority tasked with delivering 15,000 homes at the UK’s newest Garden City, met to discuss these concerns on Wednesday.
Its chief executive, Ian Piper told planning members, including Dartford and Gravesham council leaders, “swim lanes” had been proposed to hold vehicles queuing to use the facility.
Garden city bosses have been informed this new design would help prevent major blockages on surrounding roads entering the site, which is a short distance off the A2.
But Mr Piper said: “I think until the facility becomes operational and they are actually clearer how many vehicles are arriving and departing then I don’t think they can be totally sure whether the amount of ‘swim lane’ capacity they have put in will solve the problem.
“What it will do is it will hold capacity within the facility of those queuing rather than them being stacked out on the local highway”.
He added: “We have been pushing for a lot more detail about the operational aspects of the site.”
Dartford Council leader Jeremy Kite sought assurances these developments would be monitored closely, adding it was “extremely important for local people”.
A new special development order (SDO) was issued by the government on September 3.
This grants temporary planning permission to border departments for the development of inland border facilities and associated infrastructure across “specified local authorities”, of which Kent is one.
However, the Housing Secretary, who must sign off approval, has not yet received any submissions – although it is understood one is likely to be made for car park D at Ebbsfleet Central.
Ebbsfleet station had been used as a Covid testing site between April and September, but earlier this month testing staff were told “out of the blue” that the site would be closing.
The nearest testing facility is now in Medway , off Curtis Way Coach Park, Rochester.
Notification of Ebbsfleet’s intended use for Brexit provided an additional hurdle for Garden City bosses whose plans were dealt a blow earlier this month after Eurostar announced it would be pulling its services from Kent , until atleast 2022.
Chief executive Ian Piper told members he had written to the chief executive of Eurostar on Monday requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.
“We are definitely engaging as much as we can with Eurostar,” he said, adding it was his understanding there were no “no public service obligations on them at all”.
He added they were canvassing and putting a short brief together to be raised with the Department for Transport.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has alsoraised the issue with transport officials in Parliament .
In a statement released earlier this month, Eurostar said it had “not taken this decision lightly”.
A spokeswoman said: “Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the travel industry and on our business and we continue to operate in very challenging conditions.
“Given the uncertain outlook, it is crucial that we adapt and take action to reduce our costs so that we protect our business for the future.”
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