Published: 14:42, 22 October 2021
| Updated: 13:58, 26 October 2021
A main road has been closed in Maidstone after a large sinkhole opened up in the carriageway around midday today - just 500m from where a huge void appeared in 2018.
The carriageway collapsed along the A26 Tonbridge Road and is off limits between Queen's Road and Cherry Orchard Way.
Footage from the scene earlier today
The hole in the road measures about 5m by 6m across and according to one witness is "very deep."
Teams from South East Water are carrying out investigations and some people living nearby have been left without tap-water.
A diversion is in place between Hermitage Lane and London Road and vice versa.
Motorists are being warned to expect delays in the area and to allow extra time for their journey.
Megan Clancy, 41, who lives opposite the sinkhole, said: "It’s well known there’s a problem as there seems to be one every year near now.
She said: "It’s in the worst possible place on the junction and in such a busy road, it’s going to be absolute mayhem.
“Something seriously needs to be done to stop this happening again. It can’t keep happening.”
A home owner near Tesco petrol station, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s not surprising, but it’s massively annoying.
"How many times is it going to happen?
"Barming is a ticking time-bomb for stuff like this."
She said: "I heard whispers from friends further up the road there was a leak, which is still going on, that caused it.
"I'm surprised nobody has been hurt by it yet. I’m completely sick of it.”
Bus drivers from NuVenture reported seeing an apparent burst water main near the Cherry Tree pub early this morning.
Around seven South East Water employees are on site and police are blocking the road either side of the Tesco petrol station and Barming Fish and Chips.
KCC Highways has tweeted that the road will be closed to traffic between Queen's Road and Hambledon Court for at least six days.
The void is less than 500m from where another chasm opened on the road in 2018, closing it for around five months.
The sinkhole appeared outside the Taj Barming restaurant forcing 10 homes to be evacuated. Workers spent more than 8,000 hours fixing it as part of a £1m repair project.
Andy Beston, operations manager for South East Water said: “We’re sorry for any disruption caused by a road closure on the Tonbridge Road (A26), Maidstone.
“Around 5am we were made aware of customers experiencing no water in the Barming area of Maidstone.
“We sent technicians to investigate and they found a burst on a four inch diameter water main at the junction of Cherry Orchard Way and Tonbridge Road (A26).
Mr Beston said: "While the repair is being planned carefully, we are re-routing water into the area to maintain supplies.
"For customers experiencing low pressure or no water, bottled water is available at the junction of Cherry Orchard Way and Tonbridge Road (A26).
"Local diversions are in place while the road is closed and we’re sorry for any disruption while we carry out this emergency work."
Darren Leem, 44, a fabricator welder said: “When I left at around 6.30am this morning there were a couple vans working on a small part of the road, but I got back around about 1pm and all of a sudden there’s a massive hole outside my house.
“It was a bit of a surprise to be honest."
Mr Leem said: "Residents don’t have any water right now, apart from bottled water South East Water have offered us. But it’s the showering or taking a bath which will be the biggest problem - I’ll have to go to the gym.
"I’ve lived here for six years now and in Barming for 15 years and the problems along Tonbridge Road are getting a lot worse and it’s become riddled with sinkholes. I get it’s an old road, but it’s happening too often.
“It’s really unfortunate and a pain but we have to put up with it and hope they get it fixed soon.”
A few doors up, and also opposite the large hole, John Pickard added: “I got back from work and it was right there.
"It was a shock, but not really a surprise with what’s happened in this area over the past few years."
He said: "It seems to keep happening. When I left for work there was nothing there, and hours later I get back and there’s this huge hole.”
The latest sink-hole is certain to add further doubt as to whether Barming is the correct place to be building more homes.
Many have asked whether the sewerage and water-supply infrastructure is robust enough to cope.
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch and Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant have already jointly called on the Secretary of State for Housing to impose "an urgent moratorium on all future housebuilding" around Hermitage Lane in Barming after earlier sinkholes opened up in the area, but their appeal has not stopped planning applications being approved along the road.
By the end of the evening, the closure was having a devastating effect on local businesses.
Noah Karsandi, the manager of the Barming Fish and Chip Shop, shut his business early - because of a lack of trade.
He said: "People can still get to us from Queens Road or on the Tonbridge Road from Wateringbury, but the Tonbridge Road is closed from the point of our shop into town.
"The sink-hole is only about 15 or 20 yards from us.
"Business has been terrible, we're easily 50% down in takings so far and the worst of it is we have no idea how long this will go on for."