Fears of a no-deal Brexit have prompted Sunderland City Council bosses to draw up plans for a temporary lorry park to help Nissan’s Washington factory deal with any disruption.
Councillors have been told the local authority is planning to sign a six-month lease on land at Deptford Terrace so that deliveries to the Japanese car maker could be held at the site if Brexit fallout leads to delays at ports and affects its supply chain.
According to an email from the city council’s Chief Officers Group, there is already a ‘problem’ with Nissan-bound lorries parking in and around Washington while they wait for their delivery slot at the plant.
The message said: “Were there to be delays at ports nationally as a result of No Deal EU Exit then supply lorries would set off earlier to meet their delivery deadlines and overnight parking could increase greatly.
“It has been estimated that there could be up to a two-fold increase in the number of lorries awaiting delivery slots at any one time.”
The Chief Officers Group includes the council’s chief executive Patrick Melia, as well as other senior officers.
The group say the six-month lease could be cancelled if it is no longer required.
Planning permission for the temporary lorry park will only be needed if it is open for more than six weeks.
A permanent solution is already planned in the form of a proposed lorry park at Hillthorn Farm, near the Nissan plant, but this is not expected to be ready until several months after the current planned Brexit date of March 29.
Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller, said: “This is prudent contingency planning and designed to help prevent a sharp increase in number of lorries on our verges in the event of a no deal Brexit, which is currently still a distinct possibility.
“This planning would also help to manage the potential impact on our communities of vehicles parking in residential areas should there be an increase on the number of lorries on our streets due to delays at ports nationally as a result of a No Deal EU Exit.
“A permanent lorry park is being considered elsewhere to deal with ongoing issues and concerns that residents of Washington have had for a number of years, but this would not be ready for when the UK leaves the EU, unless a long extension to Article 50 is granted.”
Funding for the temporary lorry park is being funded by government cash handed out to local authorities across the country to help with Brexit planning.
Sunderland City Council was given £105,000 in January from a fund worth about £40m and are due to receive another £105,000 payment in the next financial year.
But while opposition councillors welcomed the unveiling of plans to cope with the potential fallout of a no-deal Brexit, there are still concerns about the progress of wider preparations.
Coun Niall Hodson, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said: “Lib Dems on Sunderland City Council have been asking about the Council’s Brexit preparations for months and the answers have always been vague.
“We have already heard that the council is expecting less revenue from the port in the coming year, and it is frustrating and concerning that Sunderland taxpayers will also be footing the bill for this lorry park.
“This is money that should be being spent on services for residents.
“Instead we’re bailing out the Government’s irresponsible handling of Brexit – and I strongly suspect this won’t be the last time.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service