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Ashford's controversial 'flume' scheme in Bank Street set to be removed to enable shared space scheme repairs

By Samantha Williams

A controversial and expensive landmark in Ashford town centre could be ripped up.

A report due to be considered by a meeting of Ashford's Joint Transportation Board (JTB) next week says The Flume is likely to be removed in conjunction with repairs to Ashford's £16million shared space scheme, which was introduced in 2008.

The Flume artwork, which cost £100,000, runs from Bank Street to Elwick Road and was designed to guide pedestrians towards the town's international station.

The Flume, in Bank Street, Ashford, has become an expensive landmark
The Flume, in Bank Street, Ashford, has become an expensive landmark

The report says: "The eastern footway in lower Bank Street into Tufton Street has been prioritised as phase one for the remedial works for the Ashford shared space.

"Due to the requirement of buses to overrun beyond the edges of the clay paved carriageway and the damage issues related to the location of the loading bays, it is likely that the 'Flume' feature will need to be removed altogether rather than repaired."

Over the last six years, the shared space scheme and The Flume have both suffered from frequent criticism after it was revealed that the materials used to create them were not strong enough for the traffic that has been driving and parking on it.

The paving stones are also badly stained and The Flume, which runs through the paving, is often clogged with rubbish and cigarette butts.

To prevent this happening again, the report states that bollards may be introduced along the road, to deter cars from driving over the footway.

Cracked paving slabs either side of The Flume
Cracked paving slabs either side of The Flume

It also says various surfacing options are currently being investigated, and priced, to determine which materials will provide the 'best solution in terms of initial installation cost balanced with aesthetics and any potential ongoing maintenance requirements'.

It is understood the whole of Bank Street, and part of Elwick Road, could be closed while the remedial work is carried out which would entail bus diversions.

The flume was designed by Australian artist and sculptor Simeon Nelson, who was given a fee of £11,600 for his work on its creation.

The rubbish-choked Flume
The rubbish-choked Flume

Cllr Bernard Heyes, chairman of the Ashford Joint Transportation Board, has welcomed the proposals to remove the "impractical" flume.

He said: "I was never a great admirer of it when it was first proposed years ago and I did voice my opinion and concerns about it at the time.

"It may have looked good on paper but sometimes these things just do not work.

"I am all for replacing it with something more practical and I think plans to do so are relatively imminent, certainly for the Bank Street area."

Artist Simeon Nelson, the creator of Ashford's controversial Flume
Artist Simeon Nelson, the creator of Ashford's controversial Flume

A date for the repairs and possible removal of The Flume has been set for spring 2015 - in a bid to avoid the Christmas trade period.

The issue will be discussed at the meeting on Tuesday at 7pm at the Civic Centre, in Tannery Lane.

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