Monkton Nature Reserve has seen a 60% fall in income since Southern Water repair works closed the road to the site.
The A253 closure has been in place for around a fortnight and is now expected to run until December 8 while Southern Water carry out maintenance works.
But Dr Clive Nuttman, adviser to the Trustees at Monkton Nature Reserve, says there has been ‘traffic chaos’ with no prior notification of the road being shut, a lorry striking the reserve’s entrance as it tried to turn around and no ‘business open as usual’ signs until two weeks into the closure.
He said: “We have been suffering because of road closure, lack of notification, impact on our business and thoughtless drivers.
“A lorry that ignored the ‘Road Closed’ signs at the Monkton roundabout and tried to turn in our entrance was the second vehicle to strike our posts and a further one hit our gates. Earlier this year we spent £2k on getting our entrance and gates renovated and improved.
“The traffic chaos has been caused by drivers ignoring the signage at the roundabout; for 10 days we have been worried about the potential for accidents by these drivers, some of whom try to swing round in our entrance without slowing down.
“Apparently, Southern Water were given a ‘free permit’ by KCC Highways to shut this road and their sub-contractors, Clancy, were responsible for the signage.
“The latter has been spectacularly inadequate; aside from not actually closing off the A253 completely – access to Miller’s Lane in Monkton could have been organised via the village- our business has been impacted by the closure signs. It’s a struggle for survival at the moment for many organisations and this sort of thing does not help.
“Clancy did offer ‘Business Open as Usual’ signs which were added to the Monkton roundabout on Friday evening – at the end of the second week of closure.
“For us, it’s been ‘too little, too late’ as the closure (or management of) has had a huge impact on our business; our takings for the period of closure are 60% down – worse still, we are now into our last two weeks of trading before our Christmas closure when we rely on a boost to our income.
“After the various lockdowns, this has added insult to injury not least through the ineptitude of Southern Water. Our charity had an existential crisis three years ago when Southern Water slapped a 21-day notice on us to replace leaking pipes on our property; we complied to the tune of £15,000 with generous support from RiverOak, Pfizer and other supporters.
“Conversely, the faulty meter that prompted Southern Water to act at that time was only replaced on Friday 24th November, three years on from the problem. The pipework that they are now finally seeing to has included a two-year leak just across from our entrance at the Miller’s Lane turning.
“We have had contact with Cllr Derek Crow-Brown and MP Roger Gale and they have been very supportive of our plight and have made representations to Southern Water over the weekend. I will be attempting to get some sort of compensation from them for this mess.”
The reserve closes for the Christmas period between December 16th and January 6th. Usually at this time of year the reserve would have around 50+ visitors across a weekend but yesterday [December 3] there were just six.
Southern Water says teams are tackling a burst water main on the A253 ad the repair is made more complex as it is covered in three and a half feet of concrete.
Workers are continuing to dig down and locate where the burst is but it is taking longer than expected.
The company added: “We’re very sorry for the impact this is having on commuters, customers and businesses in the area and those who use Monkton Nature Reserve.”
On a more positive note, the nature reserve has attracted more than 9,500 visitors between January 1 and November 30 this year, surpassing the total figure for 2022.
And there is good news for the reserve as wind farm company Vattenfall has pledged £10,000 to support the site’s Environmental Education work in 2024.
Dr Nuttman said: “We are really happy about this. We have been talking to Vattenfall for the best part of this year and they have now confirmed they will support us and will be working with our community engagement officer.
“The money is linked to our renovation/repurposing of the old Thanet Observatory site and work is underway. This exciting project is on target for completion by April 1, 2024.”
The education centre, replacing the observatory, will be used to run sessions about clean energy and the work of Vattenfall on renewables.