Council rejects UK Government Anglesey Brexit customs HGV facility park plans
“Wholly inappropriate” plans for a Brexit customs HGV facility at Mona have been thrown out by councillors, who accused the UK Government of “running around like headless chickens”.
Despite having to be in place by January – the end of the EU transition period – concerns have been raised that no site has been identified on the island to allow the additional customs checks that will be needed on arrivals from the Republic of Ireland.
The port itself is said to be unable to accommodate such a unit, but proposals to use the Anglesey Show’s existing park and ride facility on the Mona Industrial Estate to hold up to 100 HGVs were unanimously rejected by the local authority’s executive on Monday.
The council-owned land is currently leased via a peppercorn agreement to the Anglesey Agricultural Society, but an application to amend the terms allowing its sub-leasing was rejected amid claims that it would have an adverse affect on local communities and “defeat the purpose for which the lease was granted in the first place”.
It’s understood that the move would have benefited the society – the organisers of the annual agricultural show – during a time of general financial uncertainty following this year’s cancellation due to Covid-19.
Councillors noted, however, that alternative and “more suitable” sites along the A55 had been recommended – at least one on the outskirts of Holyhead – while critical of the lack of action taken so far with the clock ticking to December 31.
Cllr Bob Parry, the portfolio holder for highways and local member for Canolbarth Môn, said it would mean “round the clock traffic” affecting local communities.
“The application breaks the terms of the lease quite clearly, but what worries me is the impact on the village of Gwalchmai and the crossroads at Rhostrehwfa who would be faced with hundreds of lorries every day as they come off and back onto the A55,” he said.
“Many homes in Gwalchmai are forced to park their cars on the A5 and children cross the road to go to school, while the junction at Rhostrehwfa is already dangerous.
“I can’t understand why permission is being sought by the Agricultural Society to be honest, as it was the problem parking and the queues leading back to Gaerwen, almost, which led to the park and ride being established.
“Do they realise the implications for the show itself?”
Cllr Carwyn Jones said that a task and finish group should have “long been set up”, claiming that the UK Government was now “running around like headless chickens” as they “scramble” to hit the deadline.
He added: “The UK Government has been a shambles when it comes to Brexit and this will all land on our doorstep within a matter of months.
“They can’t sit in London and just look at Google maps, and we can’t be strong-armed into accepting a site that isn’t appropriate.”
Cllr Robin Williams said that he “despaired” at the situation, adding: “We’re almost in October now, why haven’t they discussed this with us and asked our views? It’s utter madness.”
The Welsh Government says that, with only three months to go, “precious time has been lost”, and claims they were only recently invited to become involved in joint planning including the requirements at Welsh ports.
But the council’s leader of the opposition said the executive had been “hasty” and that a compromise could have been secured.
Cllr Bryan Owen, leader of the Annibynnwyr Môn group, said: “I think it was a poor decision.
“They know that the show is strapped for cash and the authority isn’t in the best financial position, so why not sit down with the show organisers and organise a 50/50 revenue share?
“We should be here to help and any challenges weren’t insurmountable.
“The traffic doesn’t have to go through Gwalchmai. You could force the lorries to go back towards the A55 via Rhostrehwfa which doesn’t really impact the village.
“You’re also only talking heavier traffic for an hour or so after the ferries are coming in, and certainly not 24 hours a day.”
An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is working closely across government, with the Welsh government and with ports to understand requirements and implement infrastructure changes in line with the support announced by the government.
“Alongside engaging with ports to understand what infrastructure may be required, we are reviewing a number of potential sites which are close to ports, and near strategic road networks, including options to support Holyhead.”
The Anglesey Agricultural Society has been approached to comment.
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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