Residents win reprieve after 40-mile diversion is halted

Nusrat Ghani
AROUND THE HOUSES: A near 40-mile diversion was put in place by SES near Chiddingstone Causeway

The Sutton and East Surrey Water Company [SES] closed the B2027 Tonbridge Road between Edenbridge and Tonbridge on August 13 to lay new pipes.

Around 200 metres of the road were being worked on. However, residents and local traders were horrified to discover the diversion put in place was more than 35 miles long and took around two hours to complete.

Drivers heading to Chiddingstone from Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge found they were taken south on the B1288 to Penshurst, on to the A264 to Ashurst and north to Cowden Pound before heading to Edenbridge and back to Bough Beech before finally arriving at Chiddingstone.

The works were set to last for six months.

Gareth Nixon, who runs the award-winning The Little Brown Jug pub in Chiddingstone, said the diversion had led to a 50 per cent loss of his trade.

While Alex Cottee from Tonbridge started an online petition that had gathered nearly 2,000 signatures to demand SES reopen the road after discovering it took an extra two hours to visit her housebound mother in Bough Beech.

“It is an absolute joke,” she said. “SES Water have cut off a village with no shops and very little transport.”

SES Water said the road closure was needed to replace the current water mains, which date back to 1974 and that it was a ‘legal duty’ to close the road due to safety reasons as it was not wide enough to ensure the safety of its workers.

The planned works were scheduled to last until March 2022, but last week, following an appeal by local MP Tom Tugendhat, SES Water reopened the road.

A spokesman for the utility company said: “We have not underestimated the concern from local people and businesses about the closure of the B2027 in Chiddingstone.

“Over the last few days, we have been at the site and spent many hours investigating alternative ways to still allow this essential work to continue, but to do so in a way that reduces the impact on the community.

“We have made good progress so far, having laid more than 200 metres of new pipes, but unfortunately it is not possible at the moment, due to the nature of the work needed in the road, to open one lane with traffic lights, which we recognise would be much less disruptive.

“We are a local company with a long history in the Bough Beech area and we always strive to be responsive and do what is right in providing our essential public service.”

Tom Tugendhat said he was ‘delighted’ the works had been stopped.

He added: “They will start packing up so the road is reopened by the end of the week, ahead of school term time resuming.

“Given that the water main here does need replacing, I will continue to speak to them about how to best manage this.”


Main photo: Alex Cottee

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