Three months of roadworks cause big problem for schools and shops

There has also been criticism of the plan from the town’s two representatives on Kent County Council [KCC] over the gas distribution company SGN’s failure to give sufficient notice of its intentions.

The High Street will be closed outside Tonbridge School northbound between Bordyke and Portman Park from Monday September 9 until November 29 while SGN replaces a gas main.

This will result in a diversion taking traffic along the A227 Shipbourne Road, down The Ridgeway and onto the A26 Hadlow Road.

However, this route is now under review after the plan to use The Ridgeway was criticised as unworkable.

The closure will have a heavy impact on the school run as the new term starts.

The critics claim it will affect retailers in the run-up to the festive season too.

It comes after the High Street was closed to southbound traffic for at least four weeks this month while a new bus stop was installed.

Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge & Malling, has joined with the Leader of the borough council, Nicolas Heslop, and the town’s two Kent County Councillors, Richard Long and Michael Payne, in urging SGN to carry out the works at a later date.

Mr Tugendhat points out that the junction where The Ridgeway joins the A26 is narrow and on a steep incline, with a traffic island for pedestrians which prevents anything larger than a car from turning.

He adds that the works have not been widely publicised with residents, schools, bus operators and businesses, with only a few councillors first made aware on August 19.

Mr Tugendhat said: “I’m concerned at how few people seem to know about this, especially as it will start just after the school term time begins and end in the Christmas shopping season.

“There are many traffic hotspots in Tonbridge and closing the High Street outside Tonbridge School will only exacerbate this further.

“That’s why I’ve joined with our local councillors to ask for SGN to change the way they will manage these works, or postpone until better plans are in place.

“The timing provides no respite from High Street works for residents in Tonbridge.”

Clrs Long and Payne issued a joint statement saying: “We fully appreciate the need for SGN to undertake these gas main replacement works before March 2020.

“However, SGN has now apparently failed for the second time to engage with Kent County Council and other parties in an orderly, timely and responsible manner about this work.

“Furthermore, their proposed diversion route along The Ridgeway is patently unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles and for these reasons we have requested that SGN postpone this work.”

Extended hours

SGN were originally going to carry out the works in March but KCC Highways deferred their permit because they did not provide sufficient notification for those likely to be affected.

Mr Heslop said: “Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council is keen to promote the economic regeneration in Tonbridge High Street, but this relies on road closures being reduced.

“I am concerned that the length of time these works will last would take us into the Christmas period, affecting businesses in the town.

“If they do proceed, I hope that SGN will agree to extended working hours to manage congestion best.”

The council has invited the company’s Chief Executive, John Morea, to the next meeting of Tonbridge Forum to address the issue.

Green Party councillor Mark Hood commented: “If KCC had listened to the public in the first place, the bus stop in the High Street would have been in a layby already and then SGN could have scheduled their work for the school holidays.

“And had KCC not cancelled the long planned London Road/Cannon Lane link road then not only would the town benefit from reduced congestion and improved air quality but we would have a convenient diversion route too.”

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