Traders look forward to end of ‘ugly’ high street barriers

UNSIGHTLY:’ The High Street barriers installed last August

Kent County Council [KCC] erected the plastic barriers in August last year after the High Street was converted into a one-way system last August, as part of the Government’s £1.6million Active Travel scheme.

KCC was allocated just over £8million by the Department for Transport to invest in schemes across the county to encourage walking and cycling in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

The one-way system, which is under review until February next year, has been welcomed locally, but the unsightly barriers have caused concern.

Traders branded them ‘ugly’, ‘unsightly’, and ‘unwelcoming’, and some have nicknamed them ‘Lego bricks’.

Last year, Tunbridge Well Borough Council [TWBC] promised to replace the barriers with more aesthetically pleasing planters and permanent pavement extensions known as parklets.

While TWBC are responsible for the ordering and paying for the street furniture, the authority has to go through KCC’s acquisition process and delays in the supply chain have meant nearly ten months have passed with the barriers remaining in place.

Council officials say the pandemic has created a nationwide demand for new street furniture as towns and cities across the country are undertaking similar schemes, but the barriers are now expected to be replaced next month with the planters in-situ by ‘mid-July’.

Ross Feeney, the Chief Executive of Royal Tunbridge Wells Together, said traders are looking forward to change.

He said: “We share the frustrations of businesses over the delays to this project; it has taken longer to deliver than originally thought – a number of reasons for which are not attributable to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. 

“Most towns around the country are installing new planters and street furniture, and sourcing a quality supply has been quite a challenge. We have been working with the Council on this project, helping them to secure a supplier, and my understanding is that the new installation is imminent. 

“The end result, with new planters and two parklets – one of which has been fully funded by Tunbridge Wells Together – will significantly improve the look of the High Street and we look forward to seeing the end result.”

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