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MP Helen Grant calls for urgent report into latest sinkhole in Tonbridge Road, Barming as South East Water can't confirm repair time frame


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A MP who has called for an urgent report looking into why another sinkhole has opened in Barming fears it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald has asked Kent County Council and South East Water to find out how the latest geological collapse is linked to previous sinkholes that have opened nearby.

The sinkhole is near Cherry Orchard Way in Barming
The sinkhole is near Cherry Orchard Way in Barming

The void in Tonbridge Road appeared on Friday, October 22 after the utility company was called to repair a burst water main that morning.

A road closure was put in place between Queen's Road and Hambledon Court initially expected to last six days, but many remain sceptical about the time frame as the 5m by 6m void appears no closer to being filled in.

When asked if the repairs were on track, a spokesperson for the company said a 'plan is being drawn up' but it can't confirm how long it will take.

It is located just 500m from where another huge void appeared in 2018, leading to frustration from residents.

Mrs Grant hopes the report will allow experts to find a 'common thread' and hopefully lead to a solution as sinkholes are constantly causing problems in Barming.

MP Helen Grant
MP Helen Grant

Helen Grant said: "I am asking KCC and South East Water for an urgent report on the reasons behind this latest geological collapse, and what the relationship is with previous sinkholes in the immediate vicinity.

"If we can diagnose a common thread, then perhaps preventative work can be undertaken to avoid future events.

"I am only thankful that, as far as I am aware, local people have been spared from serious injury.

"However, with new collapses occurring with such frequency, especially on busy public highways, I fear it is only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt.

"Once we have a diagnosis, I will be asking questions of those responsible regarding the undertaking of a comprehensive survey of the area for future prevention purposes."

The road is closed between Queen's Road and Hambledon Court. Picture: Dean Cheeseman
The road is closed between Queen's Road and Hambledon Court. Picture: Dean Cheeseman

The other sinkhole which caused havoc in Tonbridge Road in 2018 took five months to be repaired.

Commenting on the time frame, Heath ward councillor, which includes Barming, Ashleigh Kimmance said: "Unfortunately there is no end date because they have got to investigate the ground first.

"They tell me it shouldn’t take more than a week when it does start.

"If you have a look at the size of the hole, it's not so bad as the other one and I do believe the hole was created by a burst four inch water main so it's not a sinkhole as such, it's more of a case that the soil was washed away.

"Unfortunately, it’s because of the geology of Barming so it's going to happen, and there will be more.

The void is less than 500m away from a one that appeared in 2018. Picture: Archie Blurton
The void is less than 500m away from a one that appeared in 2018. Picture: Archie Blurton

"I sympathise with businesses and residents because my full-time job is a taxi driver so to actually get into town you have got to make a half a mile diversion so it's costing more in fuel."

While it is not yet clear when the void will be filled, Andy Beston, Regional Network Manager for South East Water said: “Following a meeting with other utility companies who have equipment present in Tonbridge Road (A26) and Kent Highways, a plan is being drawn up to progress the repair and reinstate the carriageway.

“While these plans are made, we are continuing to monitor the site three times a day to ensure it is safe for the general public.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience while we plan this emergency work, we know road closures can be disruptive, however the safety of the public and our workforce is our top priority.

“In the meantime, customers can follow our interactive map for updates.”

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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