Published: 17:26, 11 June 2020
| Updated: 17:34, 11 June 2020
A section of a high street will be closed from Monday to carry out essential gas works - the same day many shops are allowed to reopen for the first time since lockdown.
Tonbridge High Street will be partially blocked off outside Tonbridge School, between the Ivy House pub and Portman Park, for around 14 weeks.
Motorists will not be able to travel along the northbound side of the road and a signed diversion will be in place via Bordyke, Hadlow Road and Yardley Park Road.
Southbound traffic will be unaffected and pedestrian access to homes and businesses maintained.
This is so gas company SGN can replace old gas mains with a new plastic pipe.
The section of the High Street which will be closed does not have any shops along it, just the school and several residential properties, some of which are used as offices.
However, many businesses further along will reopen on Monday and may face disruption - but some are not too worried about it.
Absolute Creative Print has been operating throughout lockdown but will welcome customers into the store again from next week.
Director, Chris Langley, said: "I hope the gas works won't really effect us. I imagine people will be a little be apprehensive about coming out anyway, I don't think we will open the door on Monday to a huge queue.
"Obviously it will have an impact and people may not be as likely to use car parks but I don't think the impact will be huge - people are still going to require our services so they will get there.
He added: "Ideally this would have happened a few weeks ago but it's better that its happening at the start of shops reopening instead of later on."
Tonbridge Flooring Studio has decided to operate on an appointment-only basis from Monday, so staff aren't too concerned about reduced footfall due to the gas works.
One staff member, who did not wish to be named, said: "I find that when there's slower traffic, people have more time to look in the window and so it can actually be good for business."
SGN first proposed closing this section of the road in August, but faced opposition from Tonbridge and Malling MP, Tom Tugendhat and several councillors, who called for the "disruptive" plans to be changed or postponed.
The company has now been given approval by Kent County Council to begin these works three weeks ahead of their revised start date, which means they will be almost complete if all students return to school in September.
The diversion route has also changed to improve the safe flow of traffic.
Leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Nicolas Heslop, said: "There is never going to be a good time to do works which will have the level of disruption that these will, although I appreciate that they are essential. That’s why I’m keen that they take place at the least disruptive time possible, and with the concentration of secondary schools in Tonbridge, there is merit in getting it completed now.
"As the High Street starts to reopen, I want to ensure that as many people as possible can come and support our local independent retailers. That’s why we have deferred increasing car parking charges for a year, and I would encourage anyone to continue to visit out shops and support the town centre."
More by this authorRebecca Tuffin
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