Published: 16:25, 08 July 2019
| Updated: 16:25, 08 July 2019
A road closure and massive 18-mile diversion, dubbed an "economic disaster" by critics, is to be lifted weeks ahead of schedule.
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 led opposition to the project and insisted shutting the road, which is a direct route towards the Sussex seafront, would have a huge impact on drivers and local businesses alike.
Two signed diversion routes have been in place in recent weeks - one for smaller vehicles and another for larger vehicles including HGVs via A229 Highgate Hill/Moor Hill/The Moor, B2244 Hastings Road/Junction Road, B2089 Chitcombe Road, A28 Northiam Road/Main Street/Station Road/Rye Road, A268 Rye Road/Queen Street/Megrims Hill/Rye Road and vice versa.
However, SGN then agreed to halve the length of the works to minimise disruption and is now on course to finish even earlier, with the road set to reopen this Friday (July 12).
Kent County Council's cabinet member for highways, Mike Whiting, said: "There was huge concern locally at the original plans to close the road for 11 weeks during the summer, which would have had a massive effect on local residents and businesses.
“We asked SGN to look again at their plans and the period was reduced to five weeks.
“I am delighted to hear that through the use of new ways of replacing the old pipes has further reduced that time and they will now complete its works well ahead of schedule."