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Barming celebrates end of sinkhole drama as A26 reopens

By John Nurden

The A26 Tonbridge Road at Barming finally reopened to traffic today five months after it was shut by a sinkhole.

Neighbours led by Claire Dadswell celebrated yesterday with an impromptu party.

She said: "We had joked about officially opening it with a bottle of Prosecco but when we saw it was almost complete we decided to celebrate by sitting down.

"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. People laughed at us but it had to be done!"

She settled down on the road with her daughter Katie, 13, neighbour Mia Stockwell and Mia's daughter Lilija, eight, and took "selfies" watched by bemused workmen.

Barming residents Katie and Claire Dadswell and Mia and Liliya Stockwell celebrate the reopening of the A26 Tonbridge Road - by sitting on it!
Barming residents Katie and Claire Dadswell and Mia and Liliya Stockwell celebrate the reopening of the A26 Tonbridge Road - by sitting on it!

But she added: "The past five months have been a nightmare. I live in Glebe Lane and we have suffered a huge amount with extra traffic using our road as a diversion to get to Maidstone Hospital in Hermitage Lane.

Barming residents Mia and Lilija Stockwell and Claire and Katie Dadswell celebrate the reopening of the A26 Tonbridge Road - by sitting on it!
Barming residents Mia and Lilija Stockwell and Claire and Katie Dadswell celebrate the reopening of the A26 Tonbridge Road - by sitting on it!

"It has been hideous with cars going past continuously from 6am in the morning to 7pm at night most days.

"We have witnessed terrible incidents of road rage with motorists driving like idiots and yelling at each other. It has been total gridlock. I don't think people realise what we have all been through.

"There were times we couldn't even get in or out of our own driveways."

The new-look A26 Tonbridge Road at Barming after its sinkhole repair. Picture: Taj Barming (4919997)
The new-look A26 Tonbridge Road at Barming after its sinkhole repair. Picture: Taj Barming (4919997)

Pothole-riddled Gatland Lane, which runs parallel to Tonbridge Road, is now to be resurfaced.

Mrs Dadswell, a 43-year-old PA who works for Harrietsham company Bedfort Scientific, said: "This episode isn't over yet."

The new-look A26 Tonbridge Road at Barming after its sinkhole repair. Picture: Taj Barming (4919999)
The new-look A26 Tonbridge Road at Barming after its sinkhole repair. Picture: Taj Barming (4919999)

But the beleagued Taj Indian Restaurant was happy and posted photos of the new-look road on its Facebook page.

It said: "After a long and arduous journey, we can finally announce that the Maidstone sinkhole saga is finally over!"

It says it lost £200,000 in custom since the road was shut.

The sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge first appeared outside the Taj Barming Indian restaurant on Monday, May 28. Picture: Andy Payton (4919885)
The sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge first appeared outside the Taj Barming Indian restaurant on Monday, May 28. Picture: Andy Payton (4919885)

The sinkhole suddenly opened up over the May bank holiday (Monday, May 28) and led to 10 homes being evacuated.

Specialist engineers had to dig down 11 metres (33 feet) and then fill the gap with more than 1,000 tonnes of special strength grout. The repair is estimated to have cost more than £1 million.

County councillor Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem) said last week: "We will be glad to see it opened. They (the workers) have, under difficult circumstances, done a good job."

Work starts on repairing the sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, near the junction of Fountain Lane outside the Taj Barming restaurant. Picture: Andy Payton. (4919888)
Work starts on repairing the sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, near the junction of Fountain Lane outside the Taj Barming restaurant. Picture: Andy Payton. (4919888)

Conservative Cllr Gary Cooke added: "We've done a superb job but we need to look at the way this has gone. We are talking about a significant period of disruption."

KCC cabinet member for highways Cllr Mike Whiting said: “The significant work we’ve done with ground stabilisation and renewal of utility infrastructure will increase resilience against future failure and prevent the need for any further utility works."

“While I appreciate residents’ frustration with the time it has taken, this has been a huge undertaking and something we have never dealt with before.

"It required specialist contractors which are not always readily available, as well as significant planning."

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