Published: 06:00, 15 December 2019
| Updated: 10:55, 15 December 2019
As drivers get to grips with Junction 10a, Ashford historian Steve Salter looks at how construction of the M20 changed the town forever.
In 1978, work commenced to bring the town the modern traffic links it so badly needed.
With gradual overcrowding of the main A20 trunk road between Ashford and Folkestone, plans were agreed to bring east Kent its own slice of motorway network, an idea which originated as early as 1972.
Twenty-one years earlier in July 1957, the A20 Ashford Bypass opened between today’s Junctions 9 and 10 of the M20.
The opening of the new bypass made a considerable difference to the town centre's traffic flow, even though the town itself still had gridlock problems well into the 1960s and early 1970s.
Years later, plans for the motorway saw the bypass torn up and it became part of the M20 between the two aforementioned junctions.
At the Warren Lane end of the new road, an interchange was constructed beside Sparrows Hall and over the former Warren Hospital site, while construction of Junction 10 of the new motorway at Willesborough saw an array of homes demolished in The Street, Hythe Road and Lacton Way under the compulsory purchase laws.
Work on the Ashford-Sellindge section of the M20, which is some 7.7 miles, commenced in the autumn of 1978, costing £15.3 million to build.
The contractor was Dowsett Engineering Construction Ltd and the work was completed by the summer of 1981.
The other parts of the contract reaching beyond Sellindge were completed at a similar time and by different contractors.
The motorway terminated as it does today, near to Park Farm at Folkestone.
One notable acquisition in Ashford was Little Lacton Farm and the land belonging to the farm.
Owned by the Currah family, the site was one of the largest acquisitions for the project within the boundaries of Ashford as it is now buried beneath Junction 10.
It’s hard to believe how things once looked when it comes to the pre-motorway days as the vicinity of the motorway was radically changed beyond all recognition.
The downside of the project was that it blighted property values in the area.
One such property of one-time grandeur was Crooksfoot which once stood on today’s Tesco Extra site in Hythe Road.
Once situated within a substantially quieter area, its positioning and views were destroyed.
Following the purchase of the land around the beautiful house, it was abandoned and fell into dereliction.
The land belonging to the house was subsequently used for the motorway site offices for the duration of the project and the house was finally demolished in about 1990.
With more and more traffic using the roads, Junction 10 has become something of a nightmare for motorists and is one of the most hated road infrastructures in the county.
Plans to build a solution to the often gridlocked interchange have been on the cards for many years as due consideration has to be given not only to the people of the town who are regularly delayed by the notorious problem, but also the nearby residents and indeed the neighbouring William Harvey Hospital.
The new Junction 10a - which opened in October - is reputed to have been designed to relieve the current Junction 10, but whether it does what it’s designed to do, we shall have to wait and see.
Let us be the judge of whether it’s a help or a hindrance.
With the amount of money spent on the project, let’s hope it’s of some benefit.
Read more: All the latest news from Ashford
More by this authorDan Wright