A post-Brexit “lorry park” in Kent would be “devastating” for the environment and could affect access to a major hospital, opponents have said.
The Department for Transport is understood to be in the process of buying a 27-acre site near Ashford as it gears up for possible trade frictions as a result of leaving the EU.
But there are concerns the site could be used as a giant car park for thousands of lorries waiting to travel to the continent.
The Government has been criticised for a lack of communication with residents, which the local MP said was due to it “scrabbling around” to find somewhere for lorry overflow.
Damian Green MP told the PA news agency that there were two separate proposals for the land – an “outbound temporary lorry park if the motorway gets completely clogged” and as a location for border-related checks.
He said: “There has been no communication about this with local people until the last few days.”
Mr Green said he opposed plans to use the site – which he understands the Government does not yet own – as a lorry park because of how close it would be to new housing developments and possible affects on access to Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital.
But he said he would not be against using some of the site for border-related checks.
“I accept they need to be done somewhere that is near to the motorway,” he added.
“That won’t affect local traffic, local air pollution and I think that’s a much more acceptable proposal than a temporary park for thousands of lorries.”
When Michael Gove was asked if the Government was buying a site in Kent to use as a lorry park by Andrew Marr on Sunday, he replied: “No. We’ve been exploring a variety of potential sites. It’s not the intention to do that.
“What we want to do is to make sure that freight travelling through Kent can get to Dover and then onto the ferries and then into France and into the rest of Europe as quickly as possible.
“But it’s not the intention to create a massive concrete lorry park. It is the intention to provide the smart infrastructure which in Kent and elsewhere will allow trade to flow.”
The Department for Transport said it was exploring a variety of potential sites to use for new border processes and help manage any initial disruption.
Mandy Rossi, from Ashford Green Party, said she was “appalled” that the residents of the town had not been able to have a say on the plans for a “lorry park”.
She added: “Alongside the many new housing developments already in motion, we’ll be losing yet more of our green spaces, with a devastating effect on local biodiversity and air quality.”
Local councillor Liz Wright said: “This has come as a complete shock to local residents and is a further nail in the coffin for local democracy.
“Years of hard work and campaigning has seen Ashford become one of the greenest boroughs in England, and thirteenth on the Friends of the Earth list of sustainable local authorities.
“But the increase in pollution from thousands more lorries in Ashford will drive a coach and horses through the borough’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”