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Operation Stack lorry park legal row ‘can be easily avoided’, solicitors claim

PUBLISHED: 09:11 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:11 30 October 2017

Operation Stack

Operation Stack

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Progress on the £250m project has stalled as a result of a judicial review, scheduled for early December

A legal row over controversial plans for a huge lorry park to deal with the problems caused by Operation Stack “can be easily avoided”, solicitors claim.

Campaigners have launched a judicial review against the decision announced last year to build a £250m park in the village of Stanford, near junction 11 of the M20, to house some 3,600 trucks when Stack - the queuing of lorries on the motorway when there is disruption at the ports - is enforced.

However, the snap general election and other delays have pushed the court hearing back several times and Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said in a Westminster debate last week he wanted to see the government do everything in its power to come to a swift, out-of-court settlement to speed up construction.

Stanford Parish Council chair Matthew Webb told us campaigners would be open to a settlement if various mitigation factors are agreed, but felt the government had left it too late to arrange an agreement before the judicial review in early December.

Matthew Knight of Knights Solicitors, acting for G Forge Ltd, owner of Westenhanger Castle, which abuts the southern part of the site, said: “The uncertainty of what is happening is causing my client a major headache.

“We had an agreement that met the requirements of everyone involved, but as time has passed by it has become increasingly apparent that, even though we were dealing with the most senior Highways England officials, they had no authority to make decisions.

“Now, rather than own up, the Department for Transport is trying to blame us for holding things up as we have requested a judicial review, due to be heard on December 6 and 7.”

Responding to Mr Collins in parliament last week, transport minister John Hayes said it was “important we offer the kind of reassurance sufficient” for campaigners, but refused to explicitly acknowledge whether he would accelerate settlement negotiations.

“This is typical of the excuses we have been treated to since the judicial review was settled in principle on October 31, 2016,” Mr Knight said.

“The truth seems to be that Highways England and the Department for Transport do not really want to build the M20 lorry area and my client’s judicial review – which is about environmental impacts which were addressed on or after October 31, 2016 – is being cynically used as a convenient excuse for inaction”.

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