Published: 18:35, 12 December 2019
| Updated: 09:37, 16 December 2019
Housing mogul Fergus Wilson said he is not responsible for the traffic chaos enraging thousands of motorists everyday.
Either he or his wife Judith owns No 186 Tonbridge Road, Wateringbury.
The building on the corner with Red Hill has been declared unsafe by Tonbridge and Malling Council after a worrying crack appeared in the facade over a year ago, raising fears that the front of the building was about to tumble into the road.
For repairs to be carried out, scaffolding has had to be erected around the building and that has necessitated KCC changing the phasing of the traffic lights there so that only one direction moves at a time.
The resulting congestion has not only led to huge rush hour-delays at the crossroads but has had knock-on effects in many of the surrounding villages as frustrated motorists seek to find other routes.
Norman Kemp, the owner of the Nu Venture bus company, said he believed an incident last week where a motorist mounted the kerb in Benover Road, Yalding, close to a young girl walking to school was a product of the displacement from the Wateringbury crossroads.
He said: "Yalding has become a rat-run. Given that with its single-lane medieval bridge, there were already long delays at peak hours, it is not surprising that there is now often gridlock."
He said that his buses were sometimes queueing for 45 minutes just to cross the bridge, and as a result he has had to review timetables and divert services.
He said: "Kings Hill and Larkfield are also suffering because some motorists are using the A20 instead of the A26."
He said: "It's the nature of our congested roads now that a single delay in one town or village quickly spreads to all the neighbouring villages."
Mr Kemp was very worried about the future of bus services. He said: "If we can't maintain a reliable service we might as well pack up and go home."
Mr Wilson, a multi-millionaire whose housing empire once extended to 1,000 properties, conceded: "The work is causing traffic hold-ups - there have been some horrendous tail-backs."
But he placed the blame squarely with the borough and county councils.
He said: "There are always delays dealing with any council - dealing with two is worse."
The property is divided into two units and they had been occupied by four tenants. Mr Wilson found alternative accommodation for three of them, and one found her own alternative because she wanted to stay nearby.
Mr Wilson, 71, criticised the length of time the repair was taking - he said he had been told it wouldn't be finished until February.
He said: "I've called round at odd times during the day and sometimes there's been nobody there working.
"I can well understand why people are frustrated. I am frustrated!"
A spokesman for Tonbridge and Malling council said: "Serious structural faults meant this building was in danger of imminent collapse and posed a serious risk to public safety.
"We have therefore instructed contractors to make it safe.”
He said that usually in such circumstances the landowner would be presented with the bill.
More by this authorAlan Smith
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