Waterbrook Brexit lorry park, near Ashford, Kent, was designed to hold lorries arriving from Europe into Dover, from January 1, 2021, to enable customs, tariffs, and duties checks to take place.
Waterbrook was designed to be a temporary site whilst Sevington lorry park was constructed a few miles away. Waterbrook became a backup ‘reactive’ site once Sevington opened in the spring of 2021. The park was set up by Inland Border Force, which awarded the contract to Sodexo, which in turn sub-contracted it to Pioneer FM.
Pioneer FM was responsible for managing the site, cleaning throughout, reactive cleaning for Covid, together with other facilities management responsibilities including ensuring fresh drinking water was always available on site.
What was the challenge
Waterbrook was a fully operational site from January 1, 2021. However, it was designed to be a temporary site that would be scaled down once Sevington opened. Waterbrook was also a ‘reactive’ site which meant that, with little notice, operations could be scaled back up in the event of an emergency at Sevington, or an unexpected influx of lorries from the continent. This meant a robust contingency plan needed to be in place for Waterbrook should the need arise.
Pioneer FM supplies all the cleaning staff for this site and our first challenge was recruiting and security checking 22 full-time operatives and an area manager. The site opened in August 2020 and, initially, 4 full-time cleaning operatives worked on-site. This number increased to 22 operatives in January when the site became operational.
Before we commenced work, we ensured there was cabling at the site so that we could work and carry out regular audits.
There are two separate authorities on-site at Waterbrook – HMRC and Inland Border Force (IBF) – which each had different expectations and health and safety processes. Logistics provider, Wincanton, was also based on-site with its own health and safety process. Our team undertook three different health and safety training schedules for HMRC, IBF, and Wincanton, as well as our own in the run-up to January 1.
At this time, the Covid pandemic was at its peak. Despite all our precautions on-site, some of our Pioneers contracted Covid and one bubble had to isolate.
The winter weather presented a further challenge. In 2021, we had the coldest January in 10 years, bringing heavy snow, and freezing rain which made conditions treacherous. We alerted the council’s gritters when the ground needed to be cleared to ensure it was safe for all users. Wintry conditions returned in February with further snowfall.
When Sevington became operational in April, we slowly scaled down the Waterbrook operation, whilst being mindful of the ongoing Covid risks, and aware that at any point, Waterbrook could be scaled back up if there was an emergency at Sevington requiring its full or partial closure. Our area manager simultaneously oversaw teams in two high-security, dangerous settings.
Pioneer FM Approach
Pioneer FMs rigorous vetting procedures ensured the background of every new member of staff was thoroughly checked. All cleaning operatives underwent BPSS and SC clearance. We paid staff a retainer once they had been security checked to ensure we had the best operatives to work at Waterbrook.
Our area manager and head office managers worked together to ensure we had the right team on the ground and correctly balanced the numbers of staff at each site. Due to its temporary nature, we had a robust plan to slowly transfer staff from Waterbrook to Sevington, when Sevington started to become operational and Waterbrook wound down.
Safety is our priority and Waterbrook is an extremely hazardous location. All members of staff were trained through our own training programme which covered the hazards of working in such conditions. We are also adept at training our staff to work safely during the pandemic and all team members received thorough Covid-related training and worked in full PPE.
We future-proofed for Covid by building an emergency staffing plan to cover sickness. When one bubble had to isolate due to a positive Covid test result, we replaced those staff by drawing on our bank of full-time people from other sites in the area. Our Pioneer team at Waterbrook also volunteered to work overtime to ensure the site always remained operational.
The Pioneer FM staff worked efficiently around the clock, Covid cleaning every ‘swim lane’, cabin, and toilet after each lorry departed in preparation for the arrival of the next one.
The Benefits and Key Achievements
Waterbrook was one of the original lorry park sites to open on January 1 and there were many unknown variables. Our team worked around the clock to ensure the site was able to efficiently process up to 1,500 lorries daily and worked fastidiously to keep everyone at the lorry park safe. Weekly health and safety audits were performed, and, to date, no failures have been recorded. We worked side-by-side with other stakeholders and have ensured our processes integrated with each organisation.
Our work was recognised in a letter of commendation from Lord Agnew Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, who complimented Pioneer FM on our high standards and the safety measures we have in place to ensure the wellbeing of all lorry park users.