U-turn on Frant roadworks’ closure that retailers described as ‘madness’

Fran Taylor

East Sussex County Council has had second thoughts about its plan to close Frant Road round the clock, in both directions for nine days.

The partial U-turn came less than a day after the Times carried a front page story on retailers as businesses along the A267 described the idea as ‘madness’.

Originally, the half mile stretch of road – that acts as the main access point to the village and as one of the main commuter arteries into Tunbridge Wells – was going to be closed in both directions for 24 hours a day during the prolonged period from Saturday (October 22).

Local business owners, who had only learned about the plans two weeks before they were supposed to be implemented, had expressed their dismay at the proposals, fearing they would lose ‘thousands of pounds’ in trade.

Despite this, East Sussex County council confirmed that as they had a ‘statutory obligation’ to carry out the maintenance, no compensation for businesses set to lose thousands of pounds would be considered.

Richard Burrell, owner of the Abergavenny Arms said the scheme was ‘madness’ and threated to sue for ‘undue hardship’ which he believed could result in the loss of up to £35,000.

However, shortly after the Times ran the story, the authority announced that it will be softening its stance and said work would begin two days later on the Monday (October 24) instead.

A spokesman for the authority also confirmed work will cease at weekends – in order to reduce disruption for businesses at their busiest time of the week. In addition, during the second week, when the schools will be back after the holidays, work will take place in the evenings to avoid disruption to school traffic.

The spokesman said: “We will maintain access to local businesses where possible throughout the works and will be displaying signs indicating to motorists that local businesses remain open.

“We hope this goes some way to allaying concerns and would like to thank residents and businesses for their patience and understanding while we carry out these essential repairs.”

The partial pull back on the plans was welcomed by Roger Keen, the proprietor of Frant Stores, who was worried he could lose over half of his business under the original plans.

Mr Keen said: “These changes are good and will help restore our weekend trade but most of our business is still conducted during the working week.

“But there is no use moaning and groaning, so we just have to crack on with it now.”

The roadworks still threaten huge disruption for commuters when they get underway, as the 16,000 vehicles which use that stretch of road each day will be forced to find alternative routes.

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