The Vast ‘BojoMojo Brexit-Port’ at Ashford Requires Planning Consent and The Government is Breaching Planning law


Does the current B8 Mojo consent on the edge of Ashford cover an inland dryport customs processing facility. I should declare an interest in that my Day job is designing the largest and most modern land ports in the world.

It needs consent – back to first principles a dryport customs processing facility is neither ‘storage’ [only confiscated goods are stored] or ‘distribution’ there is no intermodal or break between multiple origin and destination. Dry ports are used where there are insufificent space at an international border for customs clearance – so checking and clearance is moved inland. As part of the EU there was no need for customs clearance the UK being part of a customs union.

There really is no precedent here. For so long as the B8 use class has existed there has been no need for customs clearance at the border to the continent, and sea ports have been covered by DOT permissions and then the DCO regime. Where dryports have been developed in the UK they have taken the form of ICDs – intermodal container deports – where TEUs are custom cleared to and from the non EU, and involving break bulk and or ‘distribution’ transferring from vehicles to and from the port to vehicles to and from the original point of origin or destionation. No ‘distribution’ takes place at M{b}ojo it is a classic inland dry port shifting only customs processing from the sea port. It is a sui gneric use requiring planning permission. Commencing the M[B]ojo consent is commencing only the B8 consent. If customs operations commence it would be unlawful.

As the queues comning to and from the port will bring the M2 and Ashford to a gfrinding halt Ashford and Kent CC should let injunctions or emergency stop notices fly.

The government has secretly purchased 11 hectares (27 acres) of land 20 miles from Dover to site a vast new Brexit customs clearance centre for the 10,000 lorries that come through the Kent port from Calais every day.

It will be the first customs post erected in the UK to deal with goods coming from the EU for 27 years.

Work will begin on fencing off the vast 1.2m square foot “Mojo” site on the outskirts of Ashford on Monday. The local council were given only a few hours’ notice that the land was now in public ownership.

After being informed on Friday afternoon, the council leader has been forced to rush out hand-delivered letters to local residents to warn them of the disruption, Paul Bartlett, a Conservative councillor, told the Guardian.Government launches new ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaignRead more

The letter, from Rachel Maclean, MP and parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, will say: “We are writing to inform you that the Department of Transport has purchased the site known as ‘MOJO’ (Church Road, Sevington, Ashford). Preliminary works are scheduled to take place on the western parcel from Monday 13 July 2020. This will include: securing the site with fencing, grass and weed vegetation cutting, extensive survey work, the constructing of a temporary site office, and the constructing of a temporary access to the site from the A2070 link road.

“Plans have not yet been finalised for the use of this site, but is anticipated to form part of the Department’s strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports for the end of the transition period. This is likely to involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls to be carried out by government agencies (eg HM Revenue and Customs). More detailed information will be provided in due course.”

The emergency purchase of the site is expected to be unveiled on Sunday by Michael Gove, who is to tour TV studios publicising the government’s multi-million-pound Get Ready for Brexit campaign. Businesses are bracing themselves for the publication of the first official details of the new border operating model and immigration system on Monday.

The government has been forced to introduce customs controls because of the decision to leave the EU’s single market and the customs union on 1 January.

When the single market came into being in January 1993, trade barriers across the bloc disappeared along with tariffs that many will remember as marking the end of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes. But from 1 January, the UK will revert to a system whereby importers will have to make customs declarations.

Mojo site

The first customs post for goods coming into the UK from the EU will be sited at Ashford. Photograph: Corporate brochure for the Mojo site off the M20 in Kent

There are fears locally in Kent that it could lead to massive congestion and tailbacks on the motorways from both the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel freightway in nearby Folkestone.

Last year contingency plans known as Operation Brock had to be put in place to guard against gridlock in the event that the UK crashed out of the EU with no deal.

Bartlett said it was no surprise that the land was going to be developed as it had been empty for almost 10 years and that HM Revenue & Customs operations would be more welcome locally than the rumoured Amazon warehouse. “It is a huge tick that this creates skilled jobs,” he said.

But he was concerned about the government rushing the new trading environment through. “Boris [Johnson] needs to be careful that these customs and tariff arrangements are finalised and in place in time, because otherwise there could be serious congestion, and we don’t want that.

“There is an enormous amount of trust involved in Boris and his counterparts in Europe to get us where we need to be for 31 December and time is not on our side,” he added.

Multiple government spokespeople declined to comment on plans saying details would be revealed “over the weekend”.