Lock to be closed for months as new fault is discovered
New structural problem found during work
‘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