MOTORISTS in Tunbridge Wells, already used to spending a significant part of their journeys stuck in traffic, are being warned to brace themselves for significant disruption in the coming weeks as two main thoroughfares are closed off.
One is being shut because of scaffolding outside shops while the other is closed for vital drainage works following the flash floods.
Half of Vale Road was closed to traffic heading in the direction of London Road on Monday [August 6] to make way for scaffolding works on the shops opposite the old post office.
Vale Road runs adjacent to the station and connects with the High Street, Mount Pleasant Road, London Road and Grove Hill Road. The planned closure is for up to four weeks.
However, some retailers are questioning the way in which the roadworks have been implemented.
Nicholas Westover, who works at Sankeys Fishmongers where the road closure starts, said: ‘Cars and lorries are coming down here and having to make a U-turn outside the station. One large lorry took ten minutes to turn round.
‘There should be a diversion sign encouraging people down the High Street and there should also be temporary traffic lights so that traffic can go two ways.’
Mr Westover said the closure was ‘quite dangerous’.
‘People come down towards the station thinking the whole road is closed, as the sign suggests, then they start to turn into the station car park to make their U-turn when suddenly they see cars coming up the road towards them.’
Compounding the situation will be the closure of Nevill Street, from August 13 for up to 15 days, as Kent County Council [KCC] and Southern Water embark on a massive drain clearing programme in the wake of recent flash flooding in the town. Nevill Street connects London Road with Warwick Park and Frant Road. Most people heading from the town centre cross over it in order to get to The Pantiles.
The overlapping works are likely to result in congestion on Tunbridge Wells’ already over-stretched road network and will be problematic for commuters heading to the station or work in the town.
It is hoped the Nevill Street drain cleaning will be welcomed in the long term by business owners and residents of The Pantiles who have seen their properties devastated by rains with increasing frequency over the past few years.
The proposal to improve drainage in Tunbridge Wells was announced by KCC on July 18 and work began on less busy streets a week later.
KCC has acknowledged some traffic disruption ‘is likely’ but said it hopes to minimise congestion by carrying out the work in the summer holidays.
One significant development being undertaken during the road closure will be to direct some highway surface water pipes directly into the River Grom, the stream which flows beneath The Pantiles. The water would normally flow into a combined sewer to aid drainage.
KCC cabinet member for highways Mike Whiting said: ‘I’ve seen the devastation that flooding has caused in Tunbridge Wells and we are -determined to do our best to prevent it from reoccurring.
‘We can never completely eliminate the risk, but we can – and will – do things to prevent it as much as possible,’ he added.
Mike Tomlinson, who handles Southern Water’s surface water management, said: ‘We are committed to actively helping and supporting other organisations and the local flood resilience forums to address the issue in Tunbridge Wells and are playing our part by working with the council to produce a detailed flooding report.’
PICTURE: THE WAY FORWARD: Nicholas Westover wants a diversion sign on Vale Road
Greg Clark says disruption will be worth it
‘These important works follow from the meetings between the authorities I convened with residents and businesses following last year’s flash flood. By separating rainwater so it doesn’t go into a sewer the works will improve the flood resilience of our town. There will be a few weeks of disruption but I hope people will agree that it is necessary.
‘It will also allow a survey of the River Grom in greater detail than has been done before to check the condition of the culvert it runs through. Keeping the drains cleared is vital too, and more engineering works will need to follow to further minimise the impact of these intense downpours that are now regular events.’
Night time A26 closure
An overnight road closure will be enforced on a 1.5-mile section between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge for the rest of the month.
Kent Highways, a division of the county council, is completing resurfacing from Speldhurst Road, along the A26 St John’s Road, to St John’s Close.
Teams will work from 9pm to 6am on 20 week nights until the end of August, with weekends excluded.
The primary diversion route will be through High Brooms and, for large goods vehicles, via the A21 bypass.