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Kiron Haque, owner of Taj Barming, speaks of fears for his restaurant after another sinkhole opens on the A26 Tonbridge Road, Barming


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A Maidstone restaurant owner who lost £200,000 in revenue last time a huge sinkhole opened on his doorstep, fears for his business after another void appeared nearby.

Kiron Haque, owner of Taj Barming, says diners cancelled their bookings last night, thanks to a road closure bought on by a sinkhole opening on the A26 Tonbridge Road.

Mr Haque has also had five cancellations for this evening, with customers opting not to use the diversion in place.

The route is closed between Queen's Road and Hambledon Court for up to six days, Kent County Council Highways has said.

South East Water says it found a burst water main at the junction of Cherry Orchard Way and Tonbridge Road, and the company will work to repair the sinkhole.

However, the organisation could not give an exact date of when the road will be opened again, but added it's hoped repairs will begin early next week.

A diversion is in place between Hermitage Lane and London Road and vice versa.

A sinkhole opened up along Tonbridge Road, near the junction with Cherry Orchard Way in Maidstone. Picture: Dean Cheeseman
A sinkhole opened up along Tonbridge Road, near the junction with Cherry Orchard Way in Maidstone. Picture: Dean Cheeseman

The void, which measures 5m by 6m, is less 500 metres from the spot of a 2018 chasm, which caused a road closure of five months.

That void appeared just outside Taj Barming, with the resulting road closure costing Mr Haque about £200,000 in revenue. He did not receive any compensation for his loss.

Mr Haque said since he took over the restaurant, he had experienced flooding, the 2018 sinkhole and of course, the pandemic, with its crippling restrictions on the hospitality sector.

He said:"I still joke with my customers since we reopened after lockdown, people in the area are quite sympathetic and know what's gone on in this site, customers want to know what's next. I didn't expect another sinkhole.

"At the moment I have around five bookings cancelled for this evening, which equates to 20 people.

He said that people don't want the "hassle of the the diversion and hassle of traffic which goes with that".

The sinkhole on Tonbridge Road appeared outside Taj Barming Picture: Andy Payton
The sinkhole on Tonbridge Road appeared outside Taj Barming Picture: Andy Payton

"The business was coming back and confidence was building, Christmas is coming, things are looking positive, but I am not sure of the impact of the sinkhole."

Mr Haque said he was fearful the road closure would last longer than six days, adding last time three weeks was given as original time scale, but the route ended up being blocked for five and a half months.

Taj Barming is not the only business affected. Noah Karsandi, the manager of the Barming Fish and Chip Shop, shut his business early - because of a lack of trade.

Speaking to Kent Online yesterday, 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.

A huge sinkhole has opened in Tonbridge Road, less than 500m away from where a void opened in 2018 outside the Taj Barming Restaurant. Picture: Sean McPolin
A huge sinkhole has opened in Tonbridge Road, less than 500m away from where a void opened in 2018 outside the Taj Barming Restaurant. Picture: Sean McPolin

"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."

However, Chris Cini, a tattoo artist at Shady's Custom Tattoo, on Tonbridge Road, said their business had not been impacted, as customers were still able to access their shop.

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