Lock to be closed for months as new fault is dis­cov­ered

New struc­tural prob­lem found dur­ing work

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By David Gazet dgazet@thek­m­group.co.uk @DavidGazetK

‘A bit of a hit this year will mean we will be pain free for the next 100 years’

Work to re­fur­bish a lock on the River Med­way will take an ex­tra three months to com­plete af­ter a ma­jor struc­tural fault was dis­cov­ered.

The En­vi­ron­ment Agency (EA) is car­ry­ing out the first ma­jor main­te­nance work on East Far­leigh Lock in more than 100 years as part of a £3m scheme to im­prove the wa­ter­way sys­tem for wildlife and mariners.

But con­trac­tors have dis­cov­ered a ma­jor struc­tural prob­lem with large sec­tion of wall be­hind the left-hand lock gate not found in the orig­i­nal £280,000 site in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This will have to be de­mol­ished and re­built.

Philip Mun­slow, wa­ter­ways op­er­a­tions man­ager, said: “This un­fore­seen work will take a fur­ther 12 weeks to com­plete. It is there­fore an­tic­i­pated the lock will re­main closed un­til the end of June 2017. We apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience.”

The wall is sup­posed to be two me­tres thick, but dur­ing con­struc­tion works at its low­est point it was found to be just inches.

Mark Smurth­waite, chair­man of the River Med­way Users As­so­ci­a­tion (RMUA), said if not re­paired the struc­ture could col­lapse, send­ing up two me­tres of wa­ter into the County Town.

He said: “It would be cat­a­strophic if it broke, the amount of wa­ter that would come through would flood Maid­stone again. It has to be dealt with.”

Be­cause of the con­struc­tion, the portage route around the rail­way side of the lock could also be closed on week­days and the nearby foot­path will also re­main shut. It has also af­fected busi­nesses like the Ken­tish Lady, which be­tween April and Oc­to­ber takes sight­seers on cruises up­river from Maid­stone town cen­tre to Te­ston Lock.

Nick Kennedy,owner said: “I work very closely with the EA and on var­i­ous com­mit­tees manag­ing the river and in the main they are do­ing a ster­ling job and the money they got to re­fur­bish the lock is fan­tas­tic. What they have found couldn’t be helped.

“A bit of a hit this year will mean we are pain free for the next 100 years.”

Mr Smurth­waite added: “In ad­di­tion to the plea­sure craft there are some busi­ness who rely on the river for their in­come, these are also fi­nan­cially af­fected and could have se­vere ef­fects on their fu­ture. These and other is­sues need to be looked into, and in­ves­ti­gated, be­fore any con­clu­sion can be formed.”

FEARS: Mark Smurth­waite

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