Drivers can breathe a sigh of relief after the start of a dreaded roadworks scheme on the A2070 in Ashford was pushed back to next year.
Contractors were expected to begin working on the controversial Bellamy Gurner project last month, replacing the existing Orbital Park roundabout with traffic lights.
But the scheme – which was initially set to run for up to 18 months – has now been halted until early 2022 as Kent County Council is enforcing a ‘Christmas roadworks embargo’ to keep Bad Munstereifel Road clear over the festive season.
Work has already started on verges in the area but construction company FM Conway, which is in charge of the build, says its contractors are currently only focusing on land off the main A2070.
In a newsletter sent out to residents living nearby, the company said it will “endeavour to minimise disruption” when work on the dual carriageway starts next year.
“After consultations with Kent County Council and Highways England, our programme of works has been reviewed, ensuring that no traffic management is placed on the A2070 for the remainder of 2021,” it said.
“During the early months of 2022, when works commence on the main A2070, it is inevitable that highway works of this nature will cause an element of disruption.”
Robin Harnett, who runs the Clipper & Cuts hairdressers at the Ashford Market site on the Orbital Park, welcomed the delay.
“It’s a bit better in our eyes because it gives business a bit more time to get back to normal after lockdown,” he said.
“The work will still cause a lot of disruption when it happens and I think a lot of it could be done overnight.
“It also seems a long time to do the work. They lay motorways in less time on the continent.”
Ashford Borough Council deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), who lives close to the junction, says the embargo is a sensible idea.
“It is probably quite smart of KCC to put pressure on the contractors to do it in a more restricted timeframe,” he said.
“Because if we allow them to use all 18 months, they will use all 18 months.
“By putting in an embargo it will focus their minds to get on with it quickly next year.”
As part of the project, the Avocet Way junction which leads to the Finberry housing estate will be upgraded, allowing drivers to go right for the first time when turning onto the A2070.
“Finberry residents are very grumpy about the current arrangement,” Cllr Bartlett added.
“We would be letting the people of Finberry down badly if we didn’t support the delivery of this scheme.
“But the delay is good news for businesses in the lead up to Christmas.
“It’s a good development because it means the scheme will be completed with less overall disruption to Ashford.
“We were expecting the lane closures to go in on August 16 so by now we would have had been three weeks into the works – and people would have been fuming in the hot weather.
“It is good news but the pain has been deferred until January – it doesn’t mean people won’t be grumpy about it then.”
Housebuilder Crest Nicholson, which built the Finberry estate, is fully funding the Bellamy Gurner scheme.
A spokeswoman said: “Due to a Christmas embargo imposed by KCC which does not permit traffic management on the A2070 from the start of November, FM Conway has resequenced its works programme.
“It has commenced works and will be undertaking works from now until Christmas on the widening areas and Avocet Way away from the main A2070.
“The A2070 element of works will then commence early in the new year.”