NORTH Farm Retail Park will not be able to withstand the extra traffic if popular chicken restaurant Nando's is allowed to move in, traders have warned.
Plans have been lodged with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for a new 465sq m building housing a Nando's and a coffee shop next to Toys 'R' Us in the Great Lodge Retail Park, Longfield Road.
While the food chain has boasted of finding the "perfect" location for its 100-seat restaurant, nearby business owners have reacted with anger.
Tim Smith, of Longfield Road garage Curd Bros, said the road network would be "crippled" by any increase in traffic.
He said: "The road infrastructure in North Farm can't cope as it is. If you speak to any other trader, they will tell you the same thing.
"We have all complained that because of the traffic issues we are losing customers because they can't get to us.
"We have got to do something about the congestion and allowing something new without thinking about the traffic would cause more problems."
Nando's planning application comes just days after congestion in North Farm paralysed the roads, with some motorists stuck for hours.
Mr Smith said he was unable to leave his workshop last Wednesday, January 2, until 7.15pm because of the gridlock.
Henry Treadwell, who runs Treadwell Electricals in Colebrook Industrial Estate, said last Wednesday's congestion "defied belief" and said it was the wrong place to open a Nando's.
He said: "I wouldn't want to stop anyone coming in but the problem is the industrial estate is becoming a conflict of interest between industrial and retail units.
"People like us work from the outside so congestion means we lose business, whereas retail is people coming in to them.
"When it gets to 3pm and you want to get out you may as well give up.
"Last week was just absolute lunacy. I stood outside and watched as an ambulance tried to get through the traffic for five minutes."
A transport report, prepared on behalf of Nando's by transport planners Motion, claimed the site was "accessible by a range of sustainable travel modes" and stated: "We see no transport-related reason why the proposed restaurant/coffee shop uses should be resisted."
The food chain – which aims to open later this year, with the creation of 30 jobs – defended its choice of location, describing the Great Lodge Retail Park as a "perfect site" for the restaurant.
Regional director Garry Duncan said: "It's no lie that we're looking to open a restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, having spent the last five years searching for a suitable site.
"Finding the perfect site for a restaurant is never easy, but we're confident we've finally found one."
In October plans were announced for a £5 million congestion-busting plan at North Farm.
Funded jointly by the borough and county councils, as well as through contributions by developers, the proposals included widening parts of Longfield Road and creating a one-way route around the Marks & Spencer development.
County council highways officers this week said they would be meeting with owners of land they want to buy, as part of the widening plan, on January 29.
Borough council leader David Jukes, who has previously listed the traffic issue as one of his highest priorities, said: "Whenever a planning application is submitted the borough council takes the impact on highways into consideration.
"We are working with Kent County Council to alleviate congestion at North Farm and proposals are in the works."
For Brenda Parkman, assistant manager of taxi firm Walkers Cars, action could not come soon enough.
She described Longfield Road as "the bane of our lives", adding: "Last week was just unbelievable. We had drivers who were stuck at Longfield Road for an hour. In the end the customers got out of the car and the driver was given £3 for what should have been a £6 fare. Would you work for only £3 an hour?
"There is no way to avoid Longfield Road. The problem is there is no infrastructure. It is just one road and if there is an accident on the A21 then it can't cope.
"They need to do something about the infrastructure before they start allowing new buildings in."