Published: 06:00, 12 May 2019
Angry residents are preparing for another "nightmare" when a main road is shut for a further 10 weeks from tomorrow.
Drivers have already faced eight months of traffic hell after contractors closed Newtown Road from April to November last year as part of the Designer Outlet expansion.
But it will now be closed again at the junction with Romney Marsh Road from Monday until Friday, July 19, causing delays across the town for a further two-and-a-half months.
WATCH: Residents angry at fresh Newtown Road closure
Mick Fleming, who lives nearby in Cudworth Road, says the previous closure had a big impact on the community.
“Getting out of South Willesborough was a real problem because of the roadworks going on in Bad Munstereifel Road at the same time,” the 67-year-old said.
“Sometimes you just gave up and I know that it was very difficult for people with children trying to do the school run.
“The other impact was to do with the build-up of traffic in the area and the impact on the local shops and pubs, which suffered because people couldn’t get to them.
“The massive roadworks are still going on at junction 10a on the M20, so having both sides blocked will affect the shops again. It is going to disrupt everything.
“In general in Ashford, the shops are shutting, the pubs are shutting, so this doesn’t help at all.
“It has an impact on everyone.”
The roadworks scheme - which is being completed by McLaren Construction and Walker Construction - is part of the shopping centre’s £90 million expansion.
Ian Rampton, 45 and his wife Nik, 46, run The Albion Pub in South Willesborough and say the closure will have another "massive impact" on their business.
The father-of-three said: “We get a lot of business from the town centre on a weekend as people come out to the pub.
“A £7 taxi fare turns into a £15 fare when the road is closed and that’s before midnight - after that it is double time.
“So you’re looking at £30 to come up to the pub and that’s before you have even bought a drink.
“I think the same as probably everyone else in Newtown and Willesborough does: why weren’t these works done the first time?
“It was shut for eight months, impacted everyone massively and now we have another 10 weeks, but for what?"
Mr Rampton had to postpone plans to build a new outdoor children’s play area in his garden due to the loss of earnings caused by the last road closure.
He added: “I’ve got nothing against the Designer Outlet, it is great for the town and what it is doing for the town and the county is brilliant.
“But why hit us all over again?
“Now we’ve got to go around the sun to get to the moon and it’s a nightmare.
“Not just for me, but for every other business in Newtown and South Willesborough and everyone that lives there.”
During the second phase of the roadworks, contractors plan to remove the interim traffic islands and install a new and controlled pedestrian crossing.
A new tabletop ramp at the crossing will also be put in, and new paving on footpaths will also be put down.
Lighting and signage improvements will also be completed during the closure.
Clair Byrne, 40, says she had trouble catching a taxi to her home in South Willesborough during the last closure as drivers did not want to risk sitting in long queues.
She said: “On the odd occasion that I got a taxi into town, the minute I said where I was from the taxi drivers said that they didn’t want to go that way.
“In the time it takes them to do one trip, they could do a lot more.
“Usually the fare is around £6.50 from town to Willesborough, but it was £16.50 when the road was shut last time.
“Because the road is blocked, all of the other traffic is gridlocked. We literally stayed put last time.
"One time it took 90 minutes to get home from Asda."
“It was so bad last time and now we’ve got another 10 weeks.”
McArthurGlen confirmed the closure is set to go ahead and from tomorrow.
"It was shut for eight months, impacted everyone massively and now we have another 10 weeks, but for what?" - Ian Rampton
A spokeswoman said: “The improvements to Newtown Road and pedestrian walkways surrounding the centre are part of this project and will make roads safer and improve traffic flows.
“McLaren Construction and Walker Construction have advised that in order to complete the Newtown Road improvement works in their entirety, a second phase of work is required.
“The programme of works will make it easier for people to move between Ashford International Station, the town centre and the Designer Outlet.”
The outlet redevelopment is set to be completed by the autumn, and will include 50 new shops and new facilities including an events space, food piazza and 725 additional car parking spaces.
It is also expected to create 500 new jobs.
During the closure, there will be no access to Ashford International station and its car park from Romney Marsh Road.
Diversion routes will be in place via Orbital Park roundabout and Crowbridge Road.
KentOnline contacted Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council for a response, but neither authority wished to comment.