Published: 06:00, 19 July 2019
| Updated: 14:38, 13 September 2019
A main road which has been shut for two-and-a-half months will remain closed for longer than planned, it has emerged.
Bosses at McArthurGlen say “substantial rainfall” throughout June has affected resurfacing works in the road, which is now set to remain shut until Friday, August 2.
Drivers had to face eight months of traffic hell last year when contractors shut the route between April and November to remove two roundabouts and fit traffic lights.
The current closure is the second phase of the scheme, which involves removing interim traffic islands and installing a new and controlled pedestrian crossing.
But Cllr David Smith, Ashford Independent and ward member for Aylesford and East Stour, says he is disappointed the closure has been extended from 10 weeks to 12.
“It has surprised me,” he said.
“I’ve been meeting with the outlet on a four to six weekly basis and I have always asked them if they are on target. They’ve always said they were.
“It seems to be keeping the public in the dark until as late as possible.
“Ever since this work started, people have been looking forward to the road opening again.
“I have been meeting them all the way through and I have never had any notification of any extension.”
Ian Rampton, who runs The Albion Pub in South Willesborough, says the closures have had a “massive impact” on his business.
“I am really surprised to hear that it has been delayed,” the 45-year-old said.
“I was really banking on it opening - we actually had an event planned for the opening day which we are now going to have to cancel.
“It has killed us, it has absolutely killed us - it has hit us harder this time.
“Business is way down compared to this time last year.
“We are cancelling our music events because people are saying it is too expensive to get here.
“We have done a few nights that we thought were going to be busy, but they haven’t been.”
Cllr Andy Rogers - who also represents the Aylesford and East Stour ward with Cllr Smith - says residents are frustrated.
The roadworks scheme - which is being completed by McLaren Construction and Walker Construction - is part of the shopping centre’s £90 million expansion.
“With any of these projects you can have problems,” Cllr Rogers, who represents the Ashford Independents, added.
“It is obviously disappointing for the residents and they have expressed their frustration.”
The extension of the closure means there is still no access to Ashford International station and its car park from the Romney Marsh Road dual carriageway.
Diversion routes remain in place via Orbital Park roundabout in Sevington and Crowbridge Road.
'The substantial rainfall in June affected resurfacing works...' - Designer Outlet spokeswoman
Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council were asked for a response by the Kentish Express, but neither authority wished to comment.
A spokeswoman for McArthurGlen was unable to confirm a precise date of when the road will reopen.
But it is expected the route will now be back open to traffic on Friday, August 2.
The spokeswoman said: “The Newtown Road improvement works will be extended from 10 to 12 weeks due to reasons outside of the control of McArthurGlen Designer Outlet.
“The substantial rainfall in June affected resurfacing works and as a result, this essential work will take place beyond the original closure dates.
“Our construction partners McLaren Construction and Walker Construction will be working extended programmed hours, including weekends to mitigate this delay.
“Once complete, we are confident these improvements will provide significant long-term benefits for the local community.”
As well as removing interim traffic islands and installing a new and controlled pedestrian crossing during the closure, contractors are also due to put in a new tabletop ramp at the crossing and paving.
The outlet redevelopment which sparked the closure is set to be completed by the autumn, and will include 50 new shops and new facilities including an events space and food piazza.
More by this authorGeorgia Woolf