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Landlords of George Inn pub in Leeds, Maidstone fear trade impact due to six-month road closure along The B2163 Upper Street

A landlord and landlady fear an extended six-month road closure could kill off trade at a village pub.

The B2163 Upper Street, south of The George Inn in Leeds, is set to close to through traffic from July 24 until three weeks before Christmas, when it will be re-open just for the festive period, before closing again in January.

The landlords of the George Inn in Leeds, Jason and Debbie Tharp
The landlords of the George Inn in Leeds, Jason and Debbie Tharp

The road is a key artery between the A20 and Sutton Road for destinations south of Maidstone, and its extended closure is set to inconvenience thousands of motorists.

Its also heartbreaking news for pub bosses Jason and Debbie Tharp, who said: "The road is constantly being closed for something or other.

"Just last week it was shut for five days for electricity repairs. But to close for six months!"

The couple said it had been a struggle to recover business after Covid.

And the latest road closure for water main replacement works between Forge Lane and Burberry Lane will mean customers will only be able to access The George from the A20, Leeds Castle direction.

The George Inn in Leeds
The George Inn in Leeds

Mrs Tharp said: "We will stay open, of course we will. We have 16 staff here, if we shut they would lose their jobs.

"But with the increased overheads we are already facing this is the last thing we need."

She said that when the road was closed two weeks ago there had been an instant drop in custom.

The couple, who have been at The George for 10 years are due to have a meeting with the water company shortly, when they will be asking for compensation.

But worse may be on the horizon.

There are rumours that next year, the B2163 Lower Street to the north of the pub will be closed for a similar period for further water mains replacement.

Mrs Tharp said: "That will be a total disaster as much of custom comes from people visiting Leeds Castle, who then won't be able to reach us."

Cllr Gill Fort (Con) said there will be chaos on back streets due to the road closure
Cllr Gill Fort (Con) said there will be chaos on back streets due to the road closure

Gill Fort is the ward councillor for Leeds. She said: "This will be devastating for Jason and Debbie, just as they've got themselves on their feet after Covid.

"For those of us who live on the road, it will be quite nice not to have the traffic constantly thundering through.

"What it will mean, however, is that there will be chaos on all the back roads - Caring Lane, Back Street, Forge Lane, right the way to Broomfield.

"We have found with past closures, that although there will be an official diversion via Willington Street, many motorists will ignore the signs and try to rat-run.

"You only need one large vehicle down some of these narrow roads and everything comes to halt. During the last closure, I know people couldn't get out of their drives because of stationary traffic across them."

The village has experience of a similar long road closure before after a sink-hole opened up in Upper Street in November 2013.

The sinkhole that appeared in Leeds village in 2013 (63485995)
The sinkhole that appeared in Leeds village in 2013 (63485995)

Cllr Fort, who is standing for re-election next month, said: "That caused utter chaos for months, but the traffic is lot heavier now due to all the new building that has gone on in the area."

A spokesperson for South East Water said the work was essential to ensure future tap water supplies to people in Leeds.

The project will include the installation of a secondary pipeline and the replacement of an ageing main that is prone to bursts with a new, wider pipe.

Phase one of the project took place in 2022, with a new pipeline being laid across private land to provide additional support to the network.

Project manager Jeremy Dufour said: “The second phase of the project will benefit the community in two key ways.

"Firstly, the current main in Upper Street is increasingly unreliable, with frequent bursts. Repair work can often result in road closures, and so by replacing the main with a new pipe, the likelihood of bursts will be reduced resulting in far fewer disruptions to the residents of Leeds."

Project manager Jeremy Dufor
Project manager Jeremy Dufor

“Secondly, the new pipe is wider in diameter, meaning that we’ll be able to feed more water into Leeds and the surrounding area. This is a key component of the project as it allows us to protect future tap water supplies to the area as the community grows.”

The second phase, which is expected to cost £840,000 will replace 535 metres of water main.

Mr Dufour confirmed work would begin on Monday 24 July, and last six months.

He said: "Due to the number of utility services within Upper Street, the road is quite congested, and so threading a new pipeline into the road will be a complex project.

"As the road is fairly narrow, we will have to close Upper Street for the duration of the scheme."

South East Water: We must close the road
South East Water: We must close the road

"Road closures are a last resort, but the safety of the public and our workforce is paramount.”

Work within the road closure will be phased to maintain access to businesses and residents, however there will be no through access to motorists between the A20 and Sutton Road via Leeds.

Further information is available here.

Residents will also be able to find out more about the work at a public drop-in event at Leeds and Broomfield Memorial Hall in Lower Street, on Tuesday, May 16, between 4pm and 7pm.

Maidstone Borough Council elections are taking place on Thursday, May 4.

Standing for election in Leeds ward are Robert Field (Liberal Democrat), Gill Fort (The Conservative Party), Caroline Jessel (Green Party)

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