Published: 16:08, 03 June 2019
| Updated: 16:08, 03 June 2019
Holidaymakers planning a trip to the beach from the Weald this summer may need a rethink, after it was revealed the main route towards the sea is set to close for nearly three months.
Some 11 weeks of gas works are to be carried out from next month on the A268 Rye Road, which connects Hawkhurst and Sandhurst, with drivers facing a significant detour.
Work will begin at the road's junction with Water Lane before progressing eastwards towards the junction with Risden Lane, with closures imposed along the way.
A signed diversion will send drivers via the B2244 Junction Road, the B2089 Chitcombe Road, and the A268 Megrims Hill, a route which critics say could total some 18 miles.
Gas distribution company SGN said the new pipe being installed should be able to serve Hawkhurst and Cranbrook for the next eight decades and ensure a safe and reliable supply of gas.
Cllr Seán Holden, however, is leading opposition to the plan and is holding a meeting with representatives at County Hall in Maidstone on Thursday.
He said: "This road is going to close for three months during the summer and it's going to be an economic disaster.
"The diversion they are proposing is ludicrous and shows how crucial the road is to the affected communities.
"If you're having to take an 18-mile detour each day, that quickly adds up in terms of what you're having to spend on petrol.
"In Cranbrook a few years ago, the high street was meant to be closed for three months, but it ended up taking nine months, and three businesses actually went bust because of the drop in footfall.
"We are about to land on the moon again in the next five years, so we should be able to resolve an issue like this without closing the road for three months."
Waseem Hanif, spokesman for SGN, said: "We’ll shortly be starting work to upgrade the local gas supply network in Rye Road, Cranbrook.
"We’re investing to replace our old gas mains and services with new plastic pipe to ensure a continued safe and reliable gas supply to the local area.
"Following consultation with Kent County Council, our project will start on Monday, June 17 and last approximately 11 weeks.
"We’ve worked closely with the local authorities in planning this work and we will be doing everything we can to limit disruption during our essential project.
"We appreciate that roadworks can be frustrating, however, the new plastic pipe has a minimum lifespan of 80 years.
"This means once the work has been completed, Cranbrook homes and businesses will enjoy the benefits of a continued safe and reliable gas supply for many years to come."