Issued February 16, 2021
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Penelope James at the Guston IBF Site
Lib Dem Peer Baroness Jenny Randerson slammed the Government over the White Cliffs International Border Facility in the House of Lords, last Thursday (11 February) during a debate on Border Facilities and Infrastructure.
Baroness Randerson asked why the Government chose to use a Special Development Order (SDO), designed strictly for emergencies, to grant temporary planning permission for the site at Whitfield/Guston. “Time and again the Government was warned by hauliers and exporters of the need for early preparation. Therefore I find the repeated pleas of urgency used in the EM completely unacceptable. The Government has had 41/2 years to prepare for Brexit. It is no good shouting “emergency” now.”
Baroness Randerson was shocked at how little information local residents and councillors were being given: “The residents of the neighbouring villages of Whitfield and Guston are disgusted by the way they have been treated in this process....Their rights to protest or even to know what is going on are minimal. This week Dover District Council dealt with the issue. Councillors say they were not allowed to see the application until 24 hours before the meeting, and in secret, and were not allowed to disclose details to others.”
Baroness Randerson also highlighted the fact that, despite the selected site being in a rural location and close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been undertaken for this application. (An EIA reviews the impact of a project on the environment and the measures needed to mitigate this impact).
Dover and Deal Liberal Democrats also ask why no EIA has been undertaken as the Government itself introduced a law in 2019 which specified that an SDO cannot be used for any development over 5 hectares. The site at Whitfield/Guston covers 37 hectares, which means the Government is obliged to undertake an EIA.
Furthermore, the Government is in clear breach of three conventions:
- UN’s Aarhus Convention, to which the UK is a signatory, and which allows everyone the right of access to environmental information and allows for the public to participate in environmental decision making.
- the Espoo Convention – Environmental Impact in a Transboundary Context: Article 2.2 – for Environmental Impact Assessment, which the UK signed in 1991 and ratified in 1997
- the Kiev Protocol – Strategic Environmental Assessment (to be undertaken earlier than an EIA) which provides for extensive public participation in government decision-making in numerous sectors, which the UK signed in 2003.
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner, Penelope James, commented:
“The Government has shown its utter incompetence in the way it has handled this development. Their inability to plan ahead and be transparent with the local community defies belief. The fact that they are willing to ride rough shod over their own laws and UN conventions to which they have signed up is beyond contempt. The Conservatives insisted on pulling Britain out of the Customs Union and the Single Market so we could regain control over our laws. It seems the residents of Guston Parish have less control now than when Britain was a member of the European Union.”