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Fear Nando's plans could cripple roads at North Farm Retail Park in Tunbridge Wells

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: January 11, 2013

Traffic queuing through the North Farm Industrial Estate on Tuesday afternoon.

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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."

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  • jimjim  |  March 17 2013, 2:39PM

    Makes me wonder what planet are they living on!! Nothing about this new development makes sense or would work, and would just evermore frustrate the people who have to use the North Farm industrial area.

  • Jock07  |  January 16 2013, 5:27AM

    I thought the council or highways agency were going to survey the area back in 2011 to see what road improvements could be made to alleviate the congestion ?! What happened with this ?? Did it finally go ahead ? If so, why has there still been no improvements to the roads on north farm ? It is criminal that this road system has not been modified. As A_Spaceman comments below, and as many of us forced to use the road can see as completely obvious, those minor changes would have improved traffic throughput greatly. But they have not been implemented. Who is responsible for this mess and why have they not been held accountable ? I now avoid Tunbridge Wells, thanks to the joke that is North Farm, and also now the addidtional set of traffic lights on the Pembury Road. I used to spend an awful lot of money on retail therapy or dining out in the town, but not anymore. I blame this purely on the council for its appalling incompetance when it comes to road planning. Until something is done I will stay away and continue to pump money into another towns economy, or online instead. How many other hundreds of people are doing the same ? Furthermore. I cant see that the Great Lodge Retail Park site is the perfect location for a Nandos. Surely up near the Odeon cinema would be the most logical and preffered location.

  • Blavozy  |  January 15 2013, 10:09AM

    I note that the Motion transport consultancy said, "We see no transport-related reason why the proposed restaurant/coffee shop uses should be resisted." It makes one wonder whether any one from Motion actually visited the site and (a) discussed it with other shops and businesses on the North Farm estate, (b) spent a day studying traffic issues (c) read the local press (d) discussed with the Kent Highways and/or T.Wells transport planners. If they did their report flies in the face of common sense. Did the Courier contact Motion and ask them any of the above questions ? What is needed is some lateral thinking -- the situation is so bad that there is probably a need for short term solution and a longer term one. Given that local transport planners are apparently unwilling to come up with any ideas, perhaps the Courier should run a competition for the best ideas, even unconventional ones.

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  • ben_frost  |  January 13 2013, 2:22PM

    If you really think this is a bad idea, the only way to do anything about it is to OBJECT TO THE PLANNING APPLICATION. The deadline is Thursday 17th Jan, and you can add comments online - http://tinyurl.com/bzpbrnx All the moaning in the world will make no difference - the only way to try to stop this is to officially object to the proposal.

  • A_Spaceman  |  January 11 2013, 12:50PM

    The cork in the bottle appears to be the set of lights by the Toys R US/B&Q junction. Having sat there for some time it would appear that pedestrian lights are green even when there are no pedestrians and some traffic could be given green filters to turn left when other pedestrian crossings are in use. It seems an upgrade to newer available technology is required. Also removing the grass area in the front of Argos and extending the straight ahead lane would also ease progress from the A21.

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