Villagers' fury at being 'housebound' as diversion causes gridlock

Half a mile in 90 MINUTES: Villagers’ fury at being ‘housebound’ as diversion caused by gas works sparks traffic gridlock

  • Residents in rural village of Eastchurch worry what will happen in an emergency 

Villagers have become ‘housebound’ after a major diversion caused a massive traffic gridlock with motorists spending around an hour and a half just to drive half a mile.

A diversion caused by gas works road closure has left a narrow country lane with room for just one vehicle as the sole route between the village and several caravan parks.

Now, chalet owners in the rural village of Eastchurch on Kent’s Isle of Sheppey are facing ‘nightmare’ traffic standstills which are set to continue until nearly Christmas.

Some furious residents are so put off by the traffic they have given up on even trying to go to the shops for fear of being stuck in their cars for hours on end.

Kent County Council (KCC) gave permission for the narrow country lane to become a funnel for traffic after gas company SGN began digging up another part of Warden Road, by the Eastchurch Church Of England Primary School, at the beginning of the week.

Photos from local residents show lorries completely filling the tiny country lane with no room for other cars to pass 

Local resident Dennis Moyce hasn’t even attempted to leave his home since the works began, having heard how brutal the traffic was.

He worries what would happen if someone were to suffer a health emergency whilst the works are on, as it would take forever for an ambulance to get through.

The 71-year-old added that the situation is bound to get worse once schools resume next week.

The retired welder explained: ‘Because of the part of Warden Road that is closed, people living in or visiting Shurland Dale Holiday Park have Plough Road as the only option to get in and out of the village.

‘Lorries trying to get to the caravan parks and businesses down Plough Road are getting stuck down this tiny country lane and blocking the only route to the village.

‘There is not a chance for residents to get out when this happens. It is ridiculous and absolute chaos.’

Residents worry that the problem will be worse once children are back at school. Pictured, a Google Street View outside Eastchurch Primary

The closures first began on Warden Road on Monday, October 23, and work is not estimated to be completed until November 26. Pictured, Google Street View of the road

Photos from local residents show lorries completely filling the tiny country lane with no room for other cars to pass.

KCC has made an order to temporarily prohibit through traffic on parts of various roads in the village to allow gas main replacement works to be carried out.

The closures first began on Warden Road on Monday, October 23, and work is not estimated to be completed until November 26.

Although there is a long diversion, those living in a nearby caravan park say the country lanes simply cannot cope with the amount of traffic.

‘I was going to head out to the shop on Wednesday, but after seeing my neighbours leave and come back shortly after as there was nowhere for them to go, I decided to leave it,’ Mr Moyce continued.

‘I haven’t even tried, as I know it’s impossible to get through if there are lorries going along Plough Road.

‘All types of traffic are getting stuck. There was a caravan blocking the road at one point and, on another occasion, a lorry had to move onto a field to let traffic past.

‘My friend was stuck in the queue for a little less than an hour and a half just to travel 0.5 miles down the road.

‘It’s absolutely crazy to give us access to our homes through one country lane.

‘Next week the kids are back to school and the gas works are right next to the school.

‘It’s going to be an absolute nightmare, it’s dangerous.

‘If someone was to have a heart attack in one of the caravan parks they’d die as an ambulance wouldn’t be able to get here.

‘A fire truck or an ambulance just would not be able to get through and that means someone could die.

‘Perhaps they could have had temporary traffic lights instead, or done the work at night.

‘To get to Leysdown, which is six miles away, I had to drive the 12-mile diversion and then the 6-mile trip to Leysdown.

‘That is 18 miles altogether. It’s ridiculous, we don’t want to go out.’

After work is completed by SGN along Warden Road, the High Street will be closed for two weeks from Monday, October 30, and the closure between the junction with Warden Road to the junction with Leysdown Road, is set to last until just before Christmas (until December 18).

The closures are said to be required for the safety of the public and workforce while gas main replacement works are undertaken by SGN.

Bradley Barlow, a spokesman for the gas distribution company, said: ‘We’re upgrading our gas network in the Warden Road area of Eastchurch, replacing our old metal gas mains and services with new plastic pipe.

‘This essential work will ensure the local community continues to receive a safe and reliable gas supply.

‘In consultation with KCC our contractor, WCB Utilities, who will be completing this project on our behalf, started work in Warden Road earlier this week. Our project is expected to last for approximately eight weeks.

‘Due to the position of the pipes in the road and for the safety of everyone around our worksite, we need to temporarily close some of the roads around our work area.

‘While the roads are closed, signed diversions will be in place and access will be kept for residents and businesses, which have been agreed with KCC.

‘We understand people can get frustrated by roadworks and so we only use traffic management measures we feel are efficient enough to complete these works safely for ourselves and the public.’

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