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Proposal for one-way system near Lockmeadow, Maidstone opposed by McDonald's boss

Plans to sort out a notoriously gridlocked part of Maidstone with a one-way system are set to be trialled this year - but business owners fear it will make things worse.

Congestion around the Lockmeadow entertainment complex has seen drivers waiting as long as two hours to get out of busy Barker Road.

Queues of cars around the Hart Street McDonald's in Maidstone. Picture: @Jodes_ox
Queues of cars around the Hart Street McDonald's in Maidstone. Picture: @Jodes_ox

Following a recent £900,000 makeover of the large entertainment centre, Kent County Council (KCC) looks set to implement an experimental one-way system in hopes of alleviating some of the traffic.

It was hoped it would be in place by the start of this month but that date has been pushed back until later this year.

The proposed route would take people from Barker Road right around to the entry of Hart Street near B&Q.

But Ali El-Hajj, owner of the McDonald's drive-thru off Hart Street, which is currently shut for renovations, believes the scheme is ill-thought through.

He said: "With how busy the gyratory is, you sometimes get traffic beyond belief, especially when Lockmeadow holds an event.

Ali El-Hajj, owner of the local McDonald's franchises
Ali El-Hajj, owner of the local McDonald's franchises

"We've been speaking with the council for two to three years now but what they are proposing is completely the wrong way.

"What they're suggesting is only going to create a bigger bottleneck at the Barker Road junction.

"They say if it doesn't work out then it can be easily removed, but we live with it everyday and we know what the issue is - for some reason they can't visualise it."

Gina Michaelas, who owns Marino's Fish Bar along Hart Street echoed his concerns.

She said: "They haven't considered our businesses at all - people won't be able to get to me.

"The new proposal will be hell on earth and there about to kill my 31 year old business.

'we live with it everyday and we know what the issue is'

"I've seen people abandon their cars due to how bad the traffic is and I once watched an ambulance be stuck for 7 and a half minutes - if that ambulance was trying to get to an emergency that person would be dead.

"I even know of a woman who moved out of her flat while heavily pregnant to live with her mother so she wouldn't get stuck in the traffic if that time came to give birth at the wrong moment."

Ali suggested the one-way system should instead be inverted, with traffic being made to turn right into Hart Street, and exiting by the junction next to B&Q, while Gina has been campaigning for a two-lane system in and out of the Lockmeadow complex.

When the McDonald's was built in 2015, Ali had contributed £50,000 in Section 106 money to help find a solution to the traffic but that money was instead invested in a second opposite lane the other side of the gyratory.

John Foster, the head of regeneration at the council at the time, explained the precise wording on the Section 106 undertaking when the McDonald's permission had been granted had required KCC to spend the money on "improvements in the vicinity of the site" which it had interpreted as including the gyratory system. He suggested in future, more precise wording might be needed when drawing up such agreements.

MBC's Joint Transport Board initially considered three options to relieve traffic in the area.

How the one-way system would work
How the one-way system would work

Option one and the most favoured is the one-way system.

The second idea was a more long-term solution, with a second lane for traffic leaving the complex.

And a third solution was to offer a relief road through Station Approach.

Cllr David Naghi (Lib Dem) believes action needs to be taken.

He said: "If the locals don't think it will work then it won't.

Cllr Dave Naghi
Cllr Dave Naghi

"It's not rocket science - something needs to be done to help the businesses and people living in that area.

"We can't just keep talking about it."

A public consultation is set to go ahead on the effectiveness of the plan while the trial is in place.

A KCC spokesperson said: “The experimental one-way system is currently being progressed.

“This scheme is likely to be introduced later this year, once a date has been agreed with our contractor.”

The proposed one-way system will pass Lockmeadow and turn right onto Hart Street from Barker Road
The proposed one-way system will pass Lockmeadow and turn right onto Hart Street from Barker Road

The stretch of road outside Lockmeadow has been subject to complaints before.

In 2018, angry drivers took to Twitter after being stuck for hours.

Similar queues in January had a knock-on effect for food company Notorious B.R.G at the new food hall in Lockmeadow.

In a Facebook post they said: "We have closed Deliveroo in Maidstone today as there is a one-hour wait to get out of Lockmeadow currently due to the traffic on the one-way system."

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