Commonwealth glory for Pegasus gymnasts

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1 Maidstone South Edition downsmail.co.uk Maidstone & Malling s No. 1 newspaper FREE May 2018 Civic parade is cancelled THE annual parade through the town to mark the installation of Maidstone s new mayor, David Naghi, has been called off. Cllr Naghi is due to take on the non-political, ceremonial honour for the year from May 19. A council spokesman said the cancellation was due to the Army, which plays a large role in the event, being deployed overseas at the time. 6 Commonwealth glory for Pegasus gymnasts MAIDSTONE gymnasts returned from the Commonwealth Games with three gold medals and their club could not have been prouder. Former mayor Derek Butler and his wife Mary at the 2016 parade Pegasus members Courtney Tulloch (pictured) and James Hall won a total of six medals between them on the Gold Coast. The pair, who are both 22, were part of the England squad who won the team gold, which was the country s first gold medal of the games, before going on to enjoy individual success. Former New Line Learning student Tulloch won gold on the rings and a silver on the vault, while Hall, a former pupil at Oakwood Park Grammar School, added allaround silver and a bronze on the horizontal bar. The pair both train at the Tovilbased club, and their success was a source of huge pride for their YOUR LOCAL PROPERTY EXPERT Pudding Lane Maidstone Kent webexpand.co.uk In the top 1% of UK web design companies In the top 1% of UK web design companies coaches. Ovi Rugina, the head of floor and vault at the club, said: They were both brilliant. Of course we hoped they both had a very good chance of winning medals, but for them to win as many as they did is amazing. We are so pleased for them, they work so hard and train for 30 hours a week, and this is a great reward for them. The club, which meets in Farleigh Hill, was founded in This year it has suffered the loss of its chairman and founder Peter Griffin, who died on March 2 after a short battle with a cruel illness. And the success in Australia was the perfect tribute to him. Debbie Hounsell, who works on reception at the club, said: "He would have been so proud of the boys. It's absolutely fantastic we are delighted for them, they work so hard. No. 253 News Park and ride unrest PARK and ride users in Maidstone claim new rules imposed by the council adversely affect pensioners. 4-5 MP calls train debate HELEN Grant is seeking an urgent debate over train timetable changes. Election special WE HAVE the campaign latest from the local elections on May Hospital rated good KIMS Hospital has been given a good rating in its latest inspection Missing Gloria found THE body of missing Gloria 27 Stringer has been found. Obituaries Parish Councils Crime Reports A REPLACEMENT tree was scheduled to be planted in Tovil; a period of silence was held in Barming to mark the death of former chairman Jean Grice; overhead wires linked to a camper van suggested someone was living in the vehicle in Loose, according to Cllr Sue Grigg; the absence of a police or PCSO officer at the Tovil meeting was noted and the force informed of concerns. 37 GRAFFITI was sprayed onto the windows of a house in Fordwich Close; a car in Buckland Road had two tyres slashed; a gate was stolen from a garden in Egerton Road; boat batteries were stolen in Teston; an allotment shed was burgled in Upper Fant Road. Comment web design google promotion ecommerce

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3 downsmail.co.uk Ivan s retirement is end of era in Maidstone retail A CAREER dedicated to the world of photography is coming to an end as Ivan White retires after more than 50 years in Maidstone. Mr White, who is 67, is calling it a day at the end of May and with him goes a shop that has been part of Maidstone since His father Ronald set up the shop which bears his name, and young Ivan started work there at 16. But now he is set to retire, and with no-one willing to take on the shop, it will soon be lost forever. Mr White said: Before my father died in 2000, he said he was sorry for lumbering me with this business, but I told him it was my choice. It s going to be very emotional when the shop shuts for the final time, but it s the right time. It wasn t an easy decision, some people stay until they keel over, but I want to have a bit of time. Mr White, who lost his wife Mary three years ago, plans to spend his time in his garden, travelling around the UK and making the most of his National Trust membership. I ll also go and try some local interest groups, he added. I ve always enjoyed dealing with people in the shop, but sometimes camera enthusiasts can know too Ivan White, with a picture of the shop opened by his father Ronald, which will close when Ivan retires in May RONALD White Photography has been going since the 1940s, and in the window of the shop Ivan White has a picture of the original premises taken in 1954, with himself in the doorway. But with no children of his own, the shop is set to close. He said: A lot of youngsrters these days are brought up on digital equipment but they do find a love for film. much. The people I love are the ones who don t know anything, that s what I find most rewarding. We also had actor Desmond Carrington come in once, so that s one I remember. News More Subways FAST food chain Subway has announced a third outlet in Maidstone, in its latest expansion plans across Kent and Surrey. The sandwich company plans to create more than 350 jobs by opening 15 more franchises across the region by the end of the year, and another 20 by Subway already has 61 stores across Kent, with the expansion equating to about 23 new sites opening in the county over the next two years. Elvis in town THERE will be an Elvis tribute night at Fant Community Hall, Maidstone, on Saturday, June 2, at 7:30pm-11:30pm. The event presented by Maidstone Royal British Legion will cost To buy tickets call Catherine Crowhurst, membership secretary, on or send her an at Coffee and chat THERE will be coffee and chat at St Phillip s Church, Waterloo Street, from 10am-12:15pm on Tuesday, April 24. The group meets every Tuesday. FREE FREE GEORGIA TOILET & BASIN with any bathroom installation. Please present this advert at time of order. Bathing a problem - we can help we design we supply we fit we care Wet rooms Walk in showers Walk in baths Product & installtion guarantee Waterproof wall panelling Slip resitant safety flooring Grab rails, shower seats & raised toilets Local family business Zero VAT on disabled bathrooms Discounts for over 60 s SSAFA and Ex Service personnel Call now to arrange a FREE survey & quote Tel: and Showroom Open 7 Days Unit 11, Newnham Court Shopping Village, Bearsted ME14 5LH OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK (5:00pm TILL 11:00pm) Parking is available for picking up food ONLY through DENTAL CENTRE on Knightrider Street WE ACCEPT ALL MAJOR CARDS Maidstone May

4 News Park and Ride downsmail.co.uk No progress on roads plan A SENIOR figure at the borough council has criticised the lack of delivery of a transport strategy to deal with the massive housing programme on its way to Maidstone. Cllr David Burton said the Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council had failed to make tangible progress on the traffic issues associated with building 17,600 homes in the borough. Speaking at a meeting to discuss the future of park and ride, Cllr Burton, a straight-talking and wellrespected member for Marden and Yalding, said little progress had been made since the Local Plan was adopted last October. The Conservative told members of the strategic planning, sustainability and transportation (SPST) committee: We are now in the delivery stage of the Local Plan and we have an integrated transport strategy (ITS) and we haven t got on with most of them. Cllr Burton, who chairs the SPST, wants urgent action on the development of bus services linked to new housing and the improvements to the Willington Street/ 4 Maidstone May 2018 Sutton Road junction which has been shelved after a public outcry. He told the Downs Mail later: Where is tangible evidence there is any progress on the ITS? We have to crack on and deliver. He said the officers at MBC and those at Kent County Council must work better and more closely to deliver road improvements, as KCC is the highways authority. The ITS takes in the much-criticised concept of modal shift, which suggests the estimated 30,000 extra vehicles resulting from house-building could be alleviated by encouraging people to walk, cycle or take the bus. The two park and ride services, which cost about 240,000 a year to run, will convert to pay to park at the end of May as a way of rejuvenating the scheme, to encourage greater use and generate more revenue. This was agreed by the SPST at an earlier meeting. PENSIONER Rosemary Harlow claims the new park and ride scheme is unfair to pensioners. The Bearsted resident says that people can park for free at Tesco in Grove Green and take a bus from there into town using their free travel pass. The 79-year-old widow said: Some of the older people simply won t want to use it because they won t be able to pay cash. They don t have cards or phones or apps they re just not that street-wise. It s just another nail in the coffins of people who don t use new technology it s not that they don t want to learn, they just don t want to do it. Older people go into town to meet people and for some company. But they won t if they can t use their bus pass it will put them off.the park and ride has been a The SPST agreed to report back in November on the schemes at Willington Street and London Road, when passengers will pay 2.50 to park but travel on the bus free. Pensioners will not be able to use bus passes or pay cash to travel, which has prompted criticism. Scheme is unfair to pensioners loss-making thing and I think that we will lose it in time. Pictures by Amy Martin MAIDSTONE Borough Council issued a statement in response to concerns about the new scheme: It said: We conducted a public consultation to look at any potential improvements that could be made to the park and ride service. The Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transport Committee (SPST) on January 22, 2018, voted to retain the service. However, a new, temporary service model would be adopted for a period of 12 months. The primary change would Council officer Tay Arnold said that if the new scheme was not working, some short-term deliverables might be implemented, but could see no reason why other innovative options could not be considered. Councillors on the committee encouraged MBC to explore other ways to promote modal shift. Cllr Fran Wilson, the Liberal Democrat council leader, conceded: We cannot afford the park and ride at present. However, she emphasised that an alternative cannot be found at zero cost. She added that the borough is wider than the two park and rides. Cllr Val Springett said officers should be thinking outside the box and suggested a Boris Bike rental service, so that users could cycle through Mote Park and avoid the roads. She also suggested electric tuk tuks and scooters. Council papers stated: The Local Plan commits to delivering modal shift through managing demand on the transport network through enhanced public transport, the continued park and ride services and walking and cycling improvements. A modal shift problem Council park and ride view CONSERVATIVE County councillor Gary Cooke, who has led the campaign for a Leeds-Langley relief road, said: If you are going to pursue a form of modal shift you have to support it with a proper park and ride. The trouble is that this administration doesn t have the money put aside to deliver it. So pensioners will suffer the consequences. Independent Maidstone borough councillor Eddie Powell said the council had not done its homework properly before pushing the changes to park and ride through. He said: Maidstone Borough Council claims to have done a consultation, but you have got to look at the demographic of people who want to use the park and ride scheme. I fear it is the older people who are being victimised in all of this. I understand that life moves on and we have to move with it, but that s no reason to leave the older generation behind. mean that people would pay to park as opposed as to ride. Operating hours would be extended to 7pm. A legal consultation was carried out to gather further comments about the tariffs for parking at Willington Street and London Road park and ride sites. This closed to the public on March 12. The decision to promote the changes to the service was taken to raise awareness of the impact to users and encourage participation as part of the consultation process.

5 downsmail.co.uk Park and Ride News Park and ride users Jan Day and Rosemary Pearce Free up parking across the town BEARSTED resident Rosemary Pearce has called for all parking to be made free in Maidstone, to encourage shoppers to get off the internet and into stores. The retired Landway resident wonders how amenities will be provided for the extra residents in the borough as a result of the council s massive house-building plans. She said: It was my understanding that the purpose of the park and ride was to keep cars out of Maidstone. By having free parking at the sites, this was an incentive to get people to use the service and thus achieve this objective. I am fortunate to hold a free bus pass. By charging for the parking, this negates free use of public transport. I might as well not have the bus pass, and instead, drive my car in to Maidstone. Is that what the borough council wants? To get more people into the town, make all the parking free and improve the quality of the shops there. We don t all want internet shopping. I understand that some car parks are being closed to provide more housing sites, but where are FORMER Maidstone mayor and Thurnham parish councillor John Horne said the new park and ride discriminats against the elderly and disabled. Cllr Horne said: Holders of the (bus) pass will still be able to travel into the centre free using another bus service. But this fails to meet the public sector equality duty in applying fairness and equality to persons with a protected characteristic namely the elderly and FACTS AT A GLANCE It costs 240,000 a year to run the Maidstone park and ride scheme It aims to prevent 165,000 vehicle movements into Maidstone each year The new park and pay scheme will cost 2.50 to use The new scheme starts in Willington Street and London Road on May 31 Park and pay operates for a year, with a review in November the schools, doctors surgeries, hospitals, water sources and green spaces? They are just as important as homes for commuters to London. Jan Day (69) drives from her home in Sittingbourne with husband Terence to use the Willington Street park and ride service. She said: It will still be worth our while doing it when the new arrangements come in, and we re happy to pay for the parking. It will still be cheaper than driving into park in the town centre. Discrimination claim denied the disabled. There is a need for relevant town centre bus stops for the elderly carrying shopping bags, and for the disabled who have reduced mobility and may require walking aids. A council officer contested Cllr Horne s assertion and denied there is discrimination. Cllr Horne says he will now pursue a formal complaint with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Buying, selling or both? Whitehead Monckton solicitors can help you complete all the legal steps, whether you re buying or selling a property. We take pride in offering fering a no-nonsense approach to what can sometimes be a frustrating process, helping ensure e your transaction is completed as quickly and smoothly as possible. Recognised by the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Accreditation Scheme, a requirement for some mortgage lenders to use the same solicitors. Contact us today Canterbury Maidstone Tenterden Whitehead Monckton Limited (no ), 6029), registered in England & Wales. Registered office 72 King Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1BL. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under no DM /1 Maidstone May

6 News Call to singers THE Detling singers are looking for new members. The mixed four-part choir, formed in 1974, performs at concerts and dinner engagements in Kent, with selections from musicals, hymns, folk songs and Christmas music. They are encouraging people to come along and watch a rehearsal as an audition is not required. Rehearsals take place in Detling on Monday evenings. CallMike Mortlock on Toddlers fun A TODDLERS group will be held at St Phillip s Church, Waterloo Street, on Wednesday, April 25. Organisers say it is a great place to meet new people while the little ones play. Invicta sale PUPILS at Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone, held a pick-and-mix sale to raise 48 for Amnesty International in just 20 minutes. Charity fair WEST Farleigh-based charity, Dandelion Time, is holding a May Fair from noon to 3pm on Saturday, May 12. The event will include a plant stall, barbecue and craft activities. 6 Maidstone May 2018 downsmail.co.uk Civic parade called off as Army is sent abroad THE Civic and Freedom Parade, marking the installation of Maidstone s Mayor, will not go ahead this year. The decision by Maidstone Borough Council breaks a tradition that dates back to the town s first mayoral appointment in Cllr David Naghi, who has deputised for Maidstone s Mayor, Cllr Malcolm Greer for the last 11 months and is to take on the civic role on May 19, has been told that owing to the absence of the Army from the town, there is little point in holding the procession. It is understood soldiers from Maidstone will be deployed overseas and will not be able to take part in the traditional High Street parade. In recent years, hundreds have turned out to watch the historic event, which includes a carriage procession attended by council members and dignitaries and a service at the town s All Saints Church. The borough council moved the mayor making ceremony from Wednesday to Saturday morning, so that more people could see it. However, Cllr Naghi, who will be the town s 42nd mayor since the Local Government Act of 1974 created Maidstone Borough Council, told Downs Mail: I have been told there simply won t be a ceremony of any kind this year, which is obviously rather upsetting. Conservative councillor for Shepway north Marion Ring a borough councillor for 14 years will be the deputy mayor. She said: I was told Follow us on A scene from last year s ceremony when Cllr Malcolm Greer took on the role of Maidstone mayor out of the blue by David (Naghi) that there wasn t going to be a parade this year something about the Army being abroad. I m not sure why that makes a difference when you have all the other people to attend. Conservative group leader John Perry said: I heard a whisper about it being about the Army. It seems rather strange that it couldn t go on without them. Maidstone Borough Council was approached for a comment. WINDOWS & DOORS REQUIRING T.L.C? DON T REPLACE THEM MAINTAIN THEM! MAINTAINING YOUR EXISTING WINDOWS & DOORS IS CONSIDERABLY MORE COST EFFECTIVE AND MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY THAN REPLACING. UPGRADING TO ENERGY EFFICIENT BFRC A & B RATED GLASS WILL HELP SAVE YOU MONEY ON BILLS. Fairdeal are local specialists in the repair, upgrade and maintenance of double glazed windows and doors. We repair PVCu, Aluminium & Timber Fogged double glazed glass units - replaced with energy rated glass Handles & mechanisms repaired & replaced Window and door hinges and stays Leak and draught repairs Celebrating over 25 years of continuous trading Local Authority Approved NO Call out charge with Free Quotations & Advice We were pleased with the work Fairdeal Windows previously carried out on our porch, so we went back to them for windows. We are very pleased with the windows and the installers. We couldn't fault the work they carried out plus they left everything clean and tidy. Thanks to all the staff too. Mr H. - Snodland We supply & install windows, doors & conservatories including UPVC fascias, soffits & guttering Call FOR FAST FRIENDLY QUOTES & ADVICE Find us at: Unit K, Orchard Business Centre, 20/20 Industrial Estate, Aylesford, Kent ME16 0JZ

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8 News GP crisis Doctor quits due to pressure downsmail.co.uk A LONG-SERVING GP admits he had little choice but to bring forward his retirement as the strain on him became too much. Despite the fact that his retirement has left patients fearing they will have no surgery provision in Allington, not a single one has complained about his decision. In a heartfelt letter to patients, Robert Mennie (61) announced that he would be leaving the Allington Park GP surgery on May 31. It was a double blow for residents of the area, as it was also revealed that nearby Allington Clinic would also be shutting its doors on the same day, leaving more than 5,000 patients needing a new GP. Dr Mennie told Downs Mail that he fears other areas could also be similarly affected. GPs work so hard, and I think the public does realise that, he said. The workload is very heavy and I really think this sort of thing might happen elsewhere too. Five years ago, I might have tried to carry on, but I feel that the time is GP deserves his retirement A MUM who was diagnosed with a brain tumour after visiting the Allington Park Surgery is co-ordinating a collection for the retiring Dr Mennie. Clare Geeves was diagnosed in 2015 and spoke highly of the care she received at the practice. When I first saw the news on Facebook I thought I had to do something, she said. Most doctors will only have one patient in their career who has a brain tumour, but when I saw him, I was only 36 and he was so thorough. Other doctors might have just sent me on my way, but he really looked after me, sorted out a scan and then, when I was diagnosed, I spoke to him and he made sure I got my pills straight away. Mrs Geeves admits the boom in housing is causing an issue. They have built so many new houses in the area, she added. Dr Mennie has been trying to sort something out for years, but he hasn t been able to. He will be much missed and it is such a shame, but he deserves his retirement. Details of the collection are available at the surgery. Patient Larissa Rundle is devastated by the loss of Dr Robert Mennie right now to move on. None of my patients have complained or blamed me they are all very accepting of my decision. Patients at the surgery said they were gutted by the news of Dr Mennie s departure, and fear that they may have to travel long distances to get treatment in the future. ROBERT MENNIE announced his retirement with an open letter to patients, explaining why he feels it is time for him to call it a day. It said: Over the last two years, I have started to feel the pressure of working very long hours often 12 or more per day. This is not uncommon, as a recent poll showed about a third of GPs work over 12 hours a day. A solution might be to employ more doctors in the practice, but this is difficult because of recruitment issues and a lack of space. At this stage in my career, the long hours have Among them is Larissa Rundle, who has been a patient of Dr Mennie s for 27 years. She said: He has always been the best GP. I am devastated that he s leaving, it s such a massive loss. Dr Mennie is a fantastic GP, he still calls patients in the evenings and I m going to miss him so much. been too much for me. As a result of this, to expedite my retirement, I have made the difficult decision to resign my NHS contract. Dr Mennie, a GP for 32 years, said he had been trying for the past three years to arrange his retirement, but had been left frustrated. A merger with a neighbouring practice fell through and plans for a new premises on the nearby Waitrose car park were unworkable, due to a NHS policy not to fund new premises for surgeries of fewer than 8,000 patients. I ve got four daughters and they re all registered here, so all five of us need to find a new surgery. Another patient, Ann Bates, said: I am seriously concerned about the future as I am one of those people who rely on repeat prescriptions being available and, as yet, I have no idea which surgery I shall be allocated. I understand that all the local surgeries are already full and not really able to take on more patients. It is not helped by the fact that there has been such an explosion of development in the area, with so many more people applying for GP places. As I understand it, no questions were asked of local surgeries regarding availability before planning permissions were granted, so this has taken everyone by surprise, though a blind man could see that Dr Mennie is not a young man and would be retiring soon anyway. Long hours have become too much He said: I will be co-operating with West Kent CCG Primary Care Management Team to ensure the transfer of care of all of my patients to their new GPs which will occur on June 1. Allington Park Surgery will close, but all patients will be registered with a new GP. As I have said, this has been a difficult decision and I am sorry that the notice for doing this has been short. Our team at the surgery have been supportive and understand my reasons for doing this, and I hope you will have some understanding, also. Crisis is council negligence THE New Allington Action Group believes extreme negligence by Maidstone Borough Council is behind the crisis facing local patients. Both doctor s surgeries in the area, which has already seen a number of new homes built nearby, will close their doors on May 31, leaving more than 5,000 patients needing to find a new GP. The group says it has been warning of these issues for a number of years. We knew this day would come, Angela Poletti said. As a campaign group for the past four years, we have been bringing to the attention of the Plannning Authorities that this situation would happen. We had requested that an environmental impact assessment and full consultation from the NHS was required on the Hermitage Park Village, but were told it was not mandatory and therefore planning officers did not require it. There were hundreds of letters from residents saying that infrastructure must come before development, and they just did not listen. This is extreme negligence on the part of planning officers and councillors alike. The Hermitage Park Village will bring 500 new homes to the catchment area, and Mrs Poletti is concerned about the impact on the area. More than half of the residents here are pensioners, but the planning authorities ignored us, she added. The two doctors have made it clear that they have taken early retirement due to extreme pressure of work caused by ever-increasing patient numbers, and the huge impact of excessive new housing development will only add to that. Even if the 5,000 patients are relocated to the five existing local surgeries, all of which are full and taking no new patients, it will mean at least an extra 1,000 patients at each surgery, and we do not believe this is safe. The council was approached for a comment. 8 Maidstone May 2018

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10 News MP fighting for London trains CONFUSION and anger over changes to the train timetable on the Maidstone East line will be the subject of a Westminster Hall debate, if MP Helen Grant has her way. The MP for Maidstone and Weald, along with Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, will be applying for the changes to services into London to be debated when the House of Commons returns after the Easter recess. While the number of peak time services will not be cut, the changes from May 20 will see timetable amendments, including one that will take one peak train into London Victoria at 9.10am. This is too late for some commuters, but still costs the full price. Other changes mean that some services will take longer to reach the capital, while Southeastern has said other trains will be shorter. Helen Grant said: Southeastern has said that by spreading the services out, it will reduce the current Castle Court Castle Road Eurolink Industrial Estate Sittingbourne ME10 3TD Mon-Fri 9.30am - 4pm Sat 10am - 4pm gaps of arrivals into Victoria, but I have concerns that passengers will rush to get the earlier trains, causing those to be more overcrowded. It s also disappointing that some journeys are going to be longer in duration, as I already feel the service to Victoria is very slow. Overall, it remains a priority for me to ensure that we have the best possible services on offer to my constituents who use the train network on a daily basis. That is why I will continue to campaign at both national and local level on this important issue. Helen will also join other Kent MPs to meet the new rail minister, Jo Johnson MP, to discuss the timetable changes. In early April, she met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in Maidstone to discuss her concerns about the threat to high speed services and her frustration at the pushback of Thameslink Services coming to the county town. THE FIREPLACE Multifuel, woodburning and gas stoves Electric, gas & solid fuel fires Marble, wood & stone surrounds Fitting service available *Terms & conditions apply downsmail.co.uk Get the latest news online WE LIVE in a fast-moving world, but our live news service, Daily Downs Mail, means our rapidly-expanding family of readers needn t miss any coverage of important events as they happen. Whether it s up-to-the-minute traffic news, local government, shopping or schools, we ve got it pretty much covered. But there is so much more to downsmail.co.uk than that. We have a bustling, free-to-post community and business noticeboard, a directory of tradespeople and local services, a place to sell stuff at no charge and every edition to read online. We have also got a burgeoning social media presence, too. More people than ever currently 2,500 plus are following us on Facebook at We would love you to join us to share your experiences, photos, funnies and views. Likewise on Twitter, the following has grown to nearly3,000, all lapping up our news coverage and sharing content from other users. So, why not come along... The Red Bull ECCLES FOR A WARM WELCOME & GOOD COMPANY PETE CAPON sings...a Tribute to the 60's. SAT 26th May Monthly Karaoke Bringing you more than just fireplaces 1 Mackenders Ln, Eccles, Aylesford ME20 7HX Maidstone May 2018

11 downsmail.co.uk A SUGGESTION by a Liberal Democrat councillor that the borough should take over pothole repairs has been described as insulting by Kent County Council s leader Paul Carter. The call was made by Coxheath borough member Brian Mortimer, who says a clause in the 1980 Highways Act allows district councils to co-ordinate road repairs and hand the bill back to the county council. Cllr Mortimer is standing for reelection to Maidstone Borough Council on May 3. He claimed: I am absolutely fed up with being put in the position where all I can do is report constituents concerns about potholes and craters in the road to KCC. There appears to be an opportunity for us to do repairs on urban routes and those not classified as trunk roads and hand KCC the bill. He says the option has been taken by a parish council in Devon and a borough council in the north and suggests a report be commissioned to assess how this might work. Cllr Mortimer said: It makes me angry that they can draw a white line around them to lessen their liability for any damage caused, but offer no indication of when they will be fixed. To hear Paul Carter say he has found another 2m to carry out more repairs when county councillors have just given News Pothole plan is an insult, says leader Putting pothole to a perfect use! DOWNS Mail reader Howard Marsh has suggested a way of making potholes prettier. He took this photograph of a road crater filled in with spring blooms. It was taken outside the Chequers Inn in Loose on Easter Sunday. Cllr Brian Mortimer themselves a 15% pay rise, leaves me with very little sympathy or patience for on-going excuses. But Conservative KCC leader Paul Carter said: Quite frankly, I find that sort of comment insulting. We have invested a lot more money because of the degradation of the roads and the work will be carried out from the early spring through to September. We are blitzing potholes. District councils suggested this some years ago and went off the idea when they realised that they also had look after bridge repairs and the pavements as well as the roads. It is a monumental task. Downs Mail approached MBC for a comment. Festival to help local charities THE music festival Vicar s Picnic will support two Kent charities, Dandelion Time and Kenward Trust, at this year s Yalding event. The non-profit festival, which is in its sixth year, has always been run by volunteers, giving donations to several charities. Dandelion Time, based in Maidstone, helps traumatised children and their families, while the Kenward Trust, a Yalding based charity, offers residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation. Lynn Hyder, of the Kenward Trust, said: We are delighted the Vicar s Picnic has decided to support us on our 50th anniversary. Tickets for the festival on July 20 and July 21, are available at as well as Yalding Post Office, Yalding Tea Rooms and The Chequers, Laddingford. COUNTY COBBLER We can replace ZIPS on premises within 24 hours. NEW SPECIALISED key cutting i.e. tubular multi-lock security MOST car keys cut Engraving Service we can also supply trophies & tankards Just moved? Need spare keys? We are here to help!! DISCOUNTS on multiple key orders COMPETITIVELY priced. Watch repairs, batteries & straps replaced We specialise in men s leather soles stitched on. Zippo Lighters Get your gifts personalised by our engraving specialists - jewellery, pens & Zippo's etc. How to find us:- We are in The Mall- Chequers Centre- five shops in from the main entrance on the right hand side, next door to Virgin Media. KEYS* Yale type 5 2 for for 10!!! We also cut Mortice, Chubb Security & most car keys *from the same key Prompt While U Wait service available County Cobbler 370 The Mall, Dukes Walk, Chequers Centre Maidstone May

12 News Charity plans MENTAL health charity Maidstone and Mid Kent Mind has announced an expansion of its building in College Road, Maidstone. The two-storey extension will include three counselling rooms and training suites, alongside more staff offices. Chief executive Julia Blackmore said: There has never been a greater demand for our services, as more people become aware of the rising incidence of mental health problems. In the past four years, the charity has quadrupled the amount of funding it receives from charitable trusts, enabling it to deliver more services to people with mental health problems. Shop re-opens A BOOKSHOP in Maidstone which was destroyed by a fire in 2015 has finally re-opened. The Works, in Week Street, suffered more than 5 million damage in a blaze across all three floors, thought to have been started deliberately. The store was demolished the following March, with surrounding buildings covered in scaffolding while repairs were carried out. downsmail.co.uk Concern for cuckoo as habitat is lost in Kent IT IS the sound that heralds the start of spring. Two syllables repeated over and over again by the enigmatic cuckoo should be a familiar echo across the Kentish countryside, but local naturalists and birdwatchers have noted an alarming decline in their numbers. Some observers in mid-kent and the Weald say they have not seen or heard the bird in some years. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) believes that the growing absence of moths and certain invertebrates in the south of England, caused by habitat loss, may be to blame for the worrying decline. The cuckoo is famed for invading nests of other birds to lay its eggs, while displacing the host s clutch. Langley-based naturalist Theo McCausland, who works as a tree surgeon in the Kent countryside, agreed with the BTO s findings. He said: They are rarer than they once were. I m not saying that they have disappeared from the Kent countryside but, like many species, they are at the mercy of habitat loss. If they cannot get the food they need or nests to take over, they ll simply go elsewhere. Also, there may be fewer surviving the long trip from Africa for various different reasons. Leeds resident and keen birdwatcher, Audrey Browne, said: It s very sad. In years gone by, I would hear them all the time, but not anymore. I thought I heard one last year, but I can t be sure. Phil Brown, of Egerton-based Badger Bushcraft, which runs survival and outdoor workshops, is concerned the birds are being lost in the sound landscape. He said: They are not as prevalent in Kent as they once were. In Egerton, which is a rural area, we hear them quite a bit, but elsewhere, not so much. I suspect it is a habitat issue. BTO data shows that the cuckoo has declined in England by two thirds, in Wales by a third while Scottish numbers have remained broadly stable. Climate change has led to wild fires in some Spanish regions, meaning that fewer survive the journey from west Africa, says the BTO. Cuckoos spend just 15% of their year in Britain, arriving in late April and heading back to Africa by July. Have you heard a cuckoo this spring? Call Downs Mail on or drop us a line to Brand New Straight Stairlifts Reconditioned Stairlifts Tel No: Mobile: West Park Road, Maidstone, Kent, ME15 7AF Call us today to request your FREE, no obligation, home survey. Next day installation 12 Maidstone May 2018

13 downsmail.co.uk Poison alert after dogs fall sick in Mote Park DOG owners are being warned to keep an eye on their pets after two were poisoned in Mote Park. The pair swallowed an unknown substance while being walked along a temporary path between the leisure centre and the car park on Tuesday, April 10. It is not understood to have been a deliberate ploy to target dogs, and the pets affected are recovering. The Kennel Club has issued a warning to dog owners to keep an eye on their pets when walking. Spokesman Caroline Kisko said: Dogs can be exposed to poisonous substances in a number of ways, including through inhalation or a bite or sting. However, the most common way for them to be poisoned is through ingesting a poisonous substance. It is vital that owners are aware of their surroundings and any potential risks when out with their dogs. We would urge anyone who fears that their pet has eaten something it should not have done to contact a vet immediately. A Maidstone Borough Council spokesman said: We have been contacted regarding an incident of poison being found in Mote Park that affected two dogs. It is understood that the suspected poisonous substance, which the dogs ingested, was found between Maidstone Leisure Centre and the car park, along the temporary path. We are currently investigating the matter and the manager of Mote Park is in contact with the owner of both dogs, who we understand are recovering well. We would like to reassure all visitors to the park that we treat reports of this nature very seriously. It is important to point out that we do not believe that dogs are being targeted. However, we will take any steps thought necessary to keep everyone safe, happy and well. News Art exhibition ART and design students from Maidstone took over a town gallery in March to exhibit their interpretation of myth. Work from students at MidKent College in Maidstone will feature in the Mythology exhibition at the County Hall Gallery. The event was organised by the students under the direction of Levi Pugh and Joshua Wright. Sarah Creasey, from Shepway, was one of the level 3 students taking part. A former pupil at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, she said: We hope this exhibition will get our work out in the public eye and allow us to achieve something we had never attempted. Hospice help LOCAL business, the Infinity Group, has announced it will support the Heart of Kent Hospice as its charity of the year. The company has helped to raise more than 30,000 for charities and organisations over the years. Spokesman Rob Young said: We could see how our fundraising effort would help to make a real difference to people s lives and wellbeing during a very difficult time. The hospice cares for more than 1,300 patients and their families. Maidstone May

14 News Store closure TROUBLED clothes retailer New Look s Maidstone branch is likely to close as part of a voluntary arrangement to prevent the firm going bust. A company voluntary arrangement (CVA) will reduce the rent at some of its 593 stores nationwide but the unit at Fremlin Walk may beat the chop. The shop is likely to carry on trading for six to 12 months. Site is cleared TRAVELLERS set up camp in the car park of Maidstone Leisure Centre over Easter. Police were called to Willow Way after ten caravans and vehicles suddenly appeared. Maidstone Borough Council gave the travellers 24 hours to leave on March 29. They had left by Easter Monday. Driver injured A CAR hit a post on the M20 after swerving off the London-bound carriageway on Sunday, April 1. The Ford Ranger hit a signpost near the Leeds Castle junction. The driver was taken to hospital with injuries which are not thought to be serious. downsmail.co.uk KIMS now rated good thanks to hard work HEALTH services at Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery Hospital in Maidstone have improved, according to a government inspector. The privately-run facilty has been given an overall rating of good, up from requires improvement. The latest inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) demonstrates clear improvement, with good practice scores in relation to medical care, surgery, outpatients and diagnostic imaging. The hospital s CEO, Simon James (left), said the rating was a vindication of the work put in by staff and management to turn its fortunes round. Outstanding practice in medical care was reported of its cardiac catheterisation laboratory and for its volunteer KIMS angels, who chat with patients to allay their fears. The direct link that staff have with the hospital board to communicate their ideas also earned praise. Areas suggested for improvement included clearer guidance for consultant surgeons on the hospital s patient acceptance criteria. It follows an unannounced visit in 2015, when inspectors found a number of areas at the 99-bed hospital that required improvement, some of which related to the underutilisation of the hospital against initial projections. Mr James said: I am delighted with the findings of the CQC inspection, but we are not resting on For all your bathroom needs Please quote DM30 to receive a 30% discount on new quotes and orders placed. Not to be used in conjunction with other offers. Valid until end of May our laurels. This is a clear vindication of the hard work everyone at the hospital has put in; all our staff, and the consultants and doctors should rightly be proud of what we have achieved working together. All of us at KIMS Hospital remain passionate about delivering safe, outstanding, quality care, and the next step must be to work towards an outstanding rating across the hospital. The independent hospital opened in 2014 on the Kent Medical Campus, near junction seven of the M20. Complete suites from 250 Baths Showers Basins WCs Accessories Oasis Plumbing & Heating 14 Maidstone May 2018 Approved Specialist Showroom Call: Heating Plumbing Bathrooms Visit: OPEN: Mon - Fri Sat High St, Sheerness Kent ME12 1UB Rainham Rd, Chatham Kent ME5 7EN

15 downsmail.co.uk Business Focus Quality advice at affordable prices Camrass Wills gives help and advice with Wills, Powers of Attorney, Trusts, Inheritance tax, Probate and Funeral plans. Peter Camrass has over 30 years' experience in financial services and 8 years' as a legal advisor. Peter is a member of the Society of Will Writers, the largest self-regulatory trade body within the Will Writing Profession We are so lucky to be human As humans we are very lucky. Our subconscious brain assumes that we will live forever. Day to day life would be very strange if it was any other way. At some point most of us finally accept that we are not immortal and we get round to doing the things we know we should do like drawing up a Will and making arrangements for the right people to deal with our affairs when we can t, i.e. lasting powers of attorney. Getting these documents sorted out does not shorten your life! What it does is let you relax knowing that things are in place. Camrass Wills can do all of this for you and at a very reasonable price. Phone Camrass Wills to book a free initial consultation or go online: When our new fence looks this good, is maintenance free and guaranteed for 25 years, it s a no brainer Our customers tell us they re glad they chose Colourfence, and were delighted with our range of colours. They love that our fences are tested to withstand merciless weather even wind gusts of up to 130mph. They enjoy how it is maintenance free, and they love the peace of mind provided by its 25-year guarantee*. For a lifetime of trouble-free garden enjoyment, make yours a Colourfence garden. 25yr GUARANTEE For a free no-obligation quotation, please contact us now *Terms & Conditions apply please ask for details Maidstone May

16 News Measles cases: vaccine advice PEOPLE are being urged to check they are up to date with their vaccinations after five cases of measles were reported in the area. The outbreak in Kent, which began with a single case in Medway, began to rise on April 10 within hours, demonstrating the contagious nature of the virus, which is spread easily among children and adults by coughs and sneezes. Early symptoms are very much like a cold, and include fever, watery eyes, coughing and a runny nose. West Malling Group Practice was among the first to offer advice on its website, saying: You may be aware that there have been recent outbreaks of measles in Surrey, Liverpool, Leeds and the West Midlands. The PHE Health Protection Team in Kent has been notified of the first confirmed measles case in Kent since Whilst this may be an isolated case the source of infection is unclear and therefore healthcare staff are reminded to consider measles in any patient who presents with fever and rash. If measles is suspected please notify the case to PHE immediately, advise exclusion for four days from the onset of the rash and ask about any vulnerable contacts. Some doctors have said as vaccinations against measles have slipped below 95% there is always a danger of the virus spreading. Public Health England South East has urged people to check they are up to date with two doses of MMR vaccine, particularly the most vulnerable with immune problems, pregnant women, and in babies younger than one year. Angeline Walker, PHE South East Health Protection consultant, said: Measles is extremely infectious. It is really important that anyone, even adults, who hasn t already had two doses of the MMR vaccine contacts their GP surgery to get vaccinated. downsmail.co.uk Ashleigh off to America ASHLEIGH McPherson was only two years old when she started dancing to the music on the television and radio - now has been chosen to represent England in a competition in America. Now aged 17, she is a member of Brooks Academy of Dance, which was based in Snodland, and has now moved to Tovil, near Maidstone. Mum Leanne said: She was rocking in her pushchair and always dancing in front of the television so we were very happy when Susan Brooks took her on. Ashleigh (right) was eight when she joined the cheerleading group in the academy called Starlight and has been taking part in competitions all over the country. In Bournemouth last July, she was approached by a coach for Team England Hip Hop and POM who asked her if she would like to audition for Team England. Ashleigh is due to fly to Florida later this month to battle against teams from all over the world. She attended St Katherine s Primary School and The Holmesdale School in Snodland and now works as a waitress at The Bull, East Farleigh, and is studying performing arts and dance at Mid Kent College, Gillingham. Brooks Academy of Dance started in Snodland 24 years ago and moved to the Pegasus gym in Maidstone two years ago. MAIDSTONE AUTOCENTRE LTD KENT S LEADING CONVERTIBLE STOCKIST OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK MON-SAT SUN SALES FINANCE SERVICE TOP PRICES PAID FOR LOW MILEAGE CARS Ring now for the best offer Bow Road Wateringbury Maidstone Kent ME18 5DD Tel: Mobile Maidstone May 2018

17 downsmail.co.uk Sadly, due to schemes available in the past the term Equity Release has got itself a bad name. Local adviser Sarah Ferrell speaks with many people who, through no fault of their own, are carrying debt into retirement or need to raise new finance and this can make the Golden Years potentially worrying. Equity Release can, for many people, offer an ideal solution..so why does everybody think it is such a bad thing? Sarah says, The finance industry has had to adapt as the need for lending in retirement has grown at a staggering rate. The schemes of the past bear no resemblance to those available today however many people s thinking and understanding of the schemes available is still stuck in the 1970's! Many of Sarah s clients need to repay a mortgage, finance some unexpected outlay or just make their retirement more comfortable. Others want to help their children with a deposit for a house, buy a new car, go on holiday or make improvements to their home. Regardless of the reason for needing finance, there are plenty of safe and affordable solutions available and the choice of options is greater than ever. Business Focus NEVER TOO OLD FOR A MORTGAGE! Sarah finds many of the people she speaks to are worried about their finances at a time in life when they really want to be enjoying themselves. Ofte n a lack of information, or confusing advertising causes them concern and they are just not sure Like all financial transactions there are advantages and disadvantages which means that Equity Release may not be suitable for everyone. Equity release schemes involve borrowing against your home, and may work out more expensive in the long term than downsizing to a smaller property. Depending on the scheme chosen releasing equity may reduce the value of your estate and therefore the amount of inheritance you will leave. I take great care and time to fully discuss all aspects of the options available so that my clients are fully aware of what may be suitable and equally what they want to avoid! Sarah comments. what options are really available to them. This is where Sarah can bridge the gap. Sarah says, I ve been in the finance industry for over 20 years and I consider I have come across most scenarios and would reassure anyone who i concerned about their finances that they are s unlikely to be alone. Sometimes an initial chat is all that is needed to put people s mind at rest and as soon as people know they have options this in itself can often lighten the burden Sarah takes time to work out which solution may be most suitable for each individual and will visit a client at home at a time to suit them. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. Call Sarah on M: T: Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. MORTGAGES EQUITY RELEASE RE-MORTGAGE BUY-TO-LET FIRST TIME BUYERS THE WALNUT TREE Your traditional, family run, local pub. Kent s longest running comedy club Every Thursday Come and see the future stars of comedy live! Live Music - every Friday (visit website for details) Jam Night - First Monday of the month Bank Holiday Sunday Quiz Night - 6 th May Music Quiz Night hosted by a Live Band - 21 st May 2 Dogs welcome on their leads Lovely beer garden and car park. Varied bar menu served every day 12noon-8.30pm. Come try our famous Build a Burger meals! Find us opposite the entrance to Oakwood Park Tonbridge Road, Maidstone ME16 8SR web : Maidstone May

18 News Elections downsmail.co.uk Independent Maidstone is born ALL four elected members of Ukip on the borough council have resigned and gone independent. Green candidate has real chance THE Green Party in Maidstone will be standing in 11 of the 18 seats in this year s borough elections. Members claim candidate Donna Greenan(pictured) has a real chance of winning in Bridge ward. The charity worker, a single parent who lives in the area, said: We ve been campaigning against the ridiculous housing plans for thousands of large, unaffordable houses on greenfield sites around the town, while ignoring the need for affordable homes close to jobs and public transport. We were the only party to try to stop the so-called improvements to the gyratory that have wasted nearly 6m. This money could have been spent far more wisely making walking and cycling to town safer, and improving local bus services. The Greens have sensed that the Lib Dems the largest party in the leadership coalition are being blamed for housing concentrations on Hermitage Lane and the row over access to Oakwood Park. Green Party spokesman Stuart Jeffery said his team had been campaigning in Bridge ward for six months and leafleting it for a year. Based on canvass returns, between 30% and 40% of those approached pledged support. With the Liberal Democrat winning share of 31% in 2014 (491 votes), this makes the seat winnable. However, the Greens polled just 8% of the vote last time. Mr Jeffery added: We know pledges don t always come through, but I am encouraged. I take a definite as one vote and probably as half a vote and it s coming back as 30-40% which makes it winnable for us. The other Green candidates are: Coxheath and Hunton - Mike Summersgill; East - James Shalice; Fant - Ian McDonald; Harrietsham and Lenham - Susan Parr; Heath - Geoff Wilkinson; High Street - Kimmy Falconer; Marden and Yalding - Caroline Lewis; North - Stuart Jeffery; Shepway North - Stephen Muggeridge and South - Steven Cheeseman. Cllrs Eddie Powell, John Barned, Simon Ells and Gordon Newton will reconvene as individuals under the Independent Maidstone umbrella for the remainder of their terms in office. Cllr Powell, who represents Shepway South, claims the move is not connected with Ukip s disastrous standing in the national polls and recent leadership troubles. He said: We ve been considering this for a few months and it has nothing to do with the mainstream national party. I am sure they will be back to their former strength within the year. On a local level, some of us have found that the political nature of town hall politics means it can get in the way of getting things done, as the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have amply illustrated over the years. Independent Maidstone will not form part of the minority alliance of independent members currently running Maidstone Borough Council with the Lib Dems in the hung authority. Cllr Powell added: Put it like this, we don t intend to sit alongside the independent wing of the Liberal Democrats. Cllr Newton, member for Downswood and Otham, officially leaves the Eurosceptic party on March 31. He said the treatment of recently-deposed leader Henry Bolton, who was forced out over allegations relating to his Maidstone girlfriend Jo Marney, was his reason for leaving. Miss Marney was forced to apologise for material she posted on social media. He told Downs Mail: To be honest, what Henry Bolton does in his private life is his own business, but I watched the baying hounds on the National Executive Committee and thought this is ridiculous and I have got to get out if it. Cllr Barned said: We have just been out canvassing and the reaction to the news about Independent Maidstone has been very positive. It won t be easy, we know that. Cllr Ells, who represents Shepway north, will not be standing for re-election in May, but Cllr Barned will fight his seat as an independent in Shepway South. Cllr Barned will be the leader of Independent Maidstone. Carol Newton, wife of Cllr Gordon Newton for 47 years, will be standing in the Shepway North ward. LABOUR is hoping to retain one of its two seats on the council and add a couple more. Paul Harper is up for re-election in Fant ward, and he says that the reaction in his canvassing has been positive. We are getting a good response in Park Wood and Shepway South, he said. I think we have a very good chance in Park Wood, and Malcolm McKay has a good chance of getting his seat back in Shepway, too. I m getting a good response in Fant. The work I ve done on Fant Farm and Jubilee School Candidate Carol Newton Labour hoping to gain...and retain has impressed people, and they re saying they wouldn t vote for Labour nationally, but recognise the work Keith Adkinson and I have done. For me, there s a big difference between local and national politics, and it s all about putting people above politics and being the best we can for our residents. Cllr Harper claims the furore over perceived anti-semitism withing Labour. He added: I ve spoken to 1,500 people and only five or six have mentioned Jeremy Corbyn and there s no evidence of any of them being Labour voters. I ve been involved in the party for 40 years and I ve never seen any evidence of anti-semitism. It s a complicated issue and I think that there can be a misunderstanding between being pro-palestine and anti-semitic. 18 Maidstone May 2018

19 downsmail.co.uk Minister fights traffic to meet Tory hopefuls CAMPAIGNING moved up a gear with the arrival of the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, in Maidstone. Describing the traffic from Aylesford to Loose Road as busy, the minister faced pressure from his political allies on issues including rail services and the problem of how the borough s aready clogged-up roads will cope with the council s massive house-building plans. Mr Grayling, who was in the area to meet eight of the 18 Tory borough council candidates on May 3, told Tory activists gathered at the heavily-congested Wheatsheaf junction on the A274 he was aware of the local problems. Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant said: We have a Tory government, Tory county council and with a Tory-led borough council we will be able to press in a united way for the infrastructure changes needed in Maidstone, such as a south east relief road. On Operation Stack, the minister maintained that work to reinforce the hard shoulder between junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 would allow traffic to stay on the motorway and keep moving, should a Operation Stack situation arise post-brexit, as it did in He said capacity for lorries at Dover had been improved and a fresh consultation for a permanent lorry park was imminent. While he conceded that the Government had been forced to return to the drawing board on this longterm solution, he said the site at Stanford remained a firm contender. He also felt the use of Manston airport as a back-up, but costly, provision would not be necessary. On increased housing in Maidstone, Mr Grayling said the Government was making 5 billion available to local councils to address infrastructure needs. Those councils who had applied for help would learn shortly if they had been successful, he added. Transport secretary Chris Grayling and candidate Paul Wooding Lib Dem to stand down HEATH ward councillor James Willis is standing down from the borough council and will not contest his seat on May 3. Cllr Willis (left), considered a hardworking and popular Liberal Democrat member, has made the decision because of personal circumstances and no longer lives in the ward he serves. Taxi driver Ashleigh Kimmance (below) will stand in his place. In a letter to Downs Mail, Cllr Willis said: I am no longer living in or near the ward so I have to step down. It is vital that this beautiful area has ultra-local representation that Liberal Democrats promote. It is really pleasing to introduce local campaigner and taxi driver Ashleigh Kimmance. I can, from experience, say he has a great track record of standing up for local people and is truly embedded in the community. Elections News THE Conservatives have announced they are to field a full slate of candidates in the borough council elections on May 3. The candidates, by ward, are: Allington Barry Stephen Ginley Bearsted Mike Cuming Boxley Bob Hinder Bridge Jonathan Purle Coxheath & Hunton Lottie Parfitt-Reid East Cheryl Janette Taylor-Maggio Fant Graham Alexander Jarvis Harrietsham & Lenham Karen Louise Chappell-Tay Headcorn Martin Round Heath Alan Robert Chell High Street Samuel Peter James Lain-Rose Marden & Yalding David Christopher Burton North Joseph Paul Mamo Park Wood Daniel Rose Shepway North Alan Bartlett Shepway South Paul Cooper South Paul Kevin Wooding Staplehurst John Anthony Perry During the last four years, it has been an honour to have worked hard with the brilliant Heath Ward residents and I am looking forward to continuing to work as a volunteer to fight for this area. THE Liberal Democrats will field a full slate of candidates across each of the 18 wards with seats up for election. At the time of going to press, one seat remained unconfirmed. They are: Allington Dan Daley Bridge David Pickett Coxheath & Hunton Brian Mortimer East Nicola Fissenden Heath Ashleigh Kimmance High Street Clive English North Tony Harwood South Derek Mortimer Bearsted Lizzie Hare Boxley Andrew Cockersole Fant Rosaline Janko Harrietsham & Lenham TBC Headcorn Merilyn Fraser Marden & Yalding Charlie Arthur Park Wood Dinesh Khadka Shepway North Steve Beerling Shepway South Milden Choongo Staplehurst Andrew Watson Cooke stands aside for Bob TORY county councillor Gary Cooke has withdrawn as candidate for the safe Conservative ward in Boxley. He decided to stand aside when he learnt that local parish council chairman Bob Hinder (right) intended to stand. Cllr Cooke said: I thought it was in the best interests of the party to promote unity, rather than have a candidates battle before an election. I wish Bob well. Independent Maidstone candidate for Shepway South, John Barned, said: Gary has tried unsuccessfully to become a borough councillor four or five times, which was beginning to grate on him and that is why he wanted a nice, easy seat. Sources say Cllr Cooke may look to Downswood and Otham, held by Independent Maidstone s Cllr Gordon Newton, in Maidstone May

20 Maidstone s Shining Light The Royal Star Arcade FOR almost 30 years, Maidstone s Royal Star Arcade in the High Street has been a popular draw for shoppers in the county town. With its light and airy ambience, the location provides ample space for retailers and places to eat and drink as well as upstairs office space. The building has been in town since the 16th century and received royal seal of approval with the visit of Queen Victoria as a young monarch. The former coaching inn was also where the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali made his parliamentary acceptance speech on becoming MP for Maidstone. To reflect its varied past, the arcade offers an eclectic mix of outlets and services. Maidstone Health Foods was established 30 years ago, the store occupying a key corner position in the arcade. Now owned by Kim, who along with Dorothy and Jenny have over 60 years experience between them in the Health Food trade as well as a wealth of knowledge from the technical departments of the leading companies they deal with including A.Vogel, Solgar, Quest, Lamberts and Natures Aid. They run a Loyalty Card scheme and have two Senior Citizens discount days (Tues & Thurs - cash sales only). They also stock a vast range of allergy free foods and all Bodycare products or S.L.S & Parabens Free. Kilburn Jewellers have a passion for creating customised jewellery. Now with over 30 years experience in the jewellery trade, Simon and David have a vast portfolio of pieces they have produced. Kilburn Jewellers initiative was to create both unique & bespoke designs and to select key quality pieces to compliment these designs, such as clocks and gift ware. They pride themselves on offering expert advice from design ideas through to knowledge about metals/gemstones, by trained and qualified staff. They stock a large range of 18CT Yellow and White Gold and Platinum jewellery for all tastes, items are chosen or made to offer you something a little different to the items found in the multiple jewellers range. Specialising in high quality certificated diamonds including coloured and fancy stones, they also stock a range of exclusive Lady Heart Jewellery as worn by celebrities such as Amanda Holden. Hop, Stitch & Jumper is run by The Symbol Trust, a registered charity which provides speech and language therapy services to children and adults with special needs. They work with people with learning disabilities and autism with the purpose of releasing potential and enabling them to live truly fulfilling lives by providing inspired and individually designed support. Symbol operates Hop, Stitch and Jumper, a high end shop in the centre of Maidstone that sells a variety of fabric, yarn and haberdashery and run courses and provides employment experience for 15 people with learning disabilities. Unrivalled service, low prices and free delivery Stockists of Superior quality beds manufactured in Kent. All beds come with a 7 year guarantee. Free delivery on all orders eco - friendly Dry cleaning alternative Super-smooth Manual & Powered Reclining Chairs & Settees, plus Electric ʻLift & Riseʼ Recliners in a choice of wonderful styles & designs. 10% EXTRA OFF SALE PRICES on mention of this advert until end of May Royal Star Arcade, High Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1JL The choices are endless and so is the comfort. Over 100 fabrics & luxury Italian leathers. Family owned Express delivery options available Open Mon-Sat 9-5pm Sun 10-4pm upholsterybrands.co.uk Suits Coats Dresses Shirts Curtains Duvets Maidstone Town Centre - Royal Star Arcade 20 Maidstone May 2018

21 Elite Laundry Services offer a professional laundry service in the heart of Maidstone. Using the latest Woolmark approved environmentally friendly safe cleaning detergents, eliminating the use of harsh traditional dry cleaning chemicals, they are designed to reduce allergens that are harmful to skin and will keep garments and textiles looking and smelling fresher and brighter. Also offering duvet and curtain cleaning - perfect for sprucing up homes too. They provide a wide range of services including a *Priority Two Hour in-store service and Concierge pick up and drop off at work or at home. (*Subject to prior booking and/or machine availability). Furniture World are a family furniture business which has been run by four generations of the Caston family since Their main goals as a family business is to offer quality products at value for money prices along with expert advice. They can supply a wide range of products from many manufacturers and will beat any other retailer s price. Recently they have expanded their store to incorporate a Somnus Sleep Studio. These handmade beds offer an ultimate luxury feel with the very best body support. Unlike many other furniture stores they offer free delivery and you can spread your payments with two years interest free credit. Well Established Independent Health Food Shop offering you an enhanced, healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Ranges include Solger, A Vogel, Quest, Natures Aid & Natures Own and Blend Collective Royal Star Arcade, High St, Maidstone ME14 1JL Offering a wide variety of: Vitamins & Minerals Herbal Supplements Organic Products Vegan & Vegetarian Foods Allergy Friendly Foods inc. Gluten Free Natural Body Care Products Senior Citizens receive a discount on Tuesdays & Thursdays Hop Stitch & Jumper 32 Royal StarArcade Maidstone ME14 1JL Exciting range of dress & upholstery fabrics, from starter to designer collections. Sewing Courses available Dressmaking Felting Spinning Haberdashery Yarns Patterns Felting supplies Pop in & see us New Yarn Ranges coming in soon including the Drop range Want to learn how to Knit? 4 or 8 week classes beginning April 27 th 10am -12pm Beginners Patchwork classes - 4 or 8 week classes beginning April 27 th Tel Supporting adults with learning disabilities Knit & Knatter Group Wednesday pm Large portfolio of designs Expert advice Qualified staff We have a passion for creating custom made jewellery Giftware & clocks also available Over 30 years experience Kilburn Jewellers, 30 Royal Star Arcade, Maidstone ME14 1JL Telephone Website Maidstone May

22 News downsmail.co.uk Apology for castle fee increase LEEDS Castle chief executive Sir David Steele has apologised for a small increase in the annual ticket price for the tourist attraction. He said the modest rise was caused by external factors such as the price of the living wage and soaring utility costs. The controversial introduction of photographic ID for tickets to prevent a growing loan culture had been successful, he added. Sir David Steele Writing in the Leeds and Broomfield parish newsletter, Sir David said: The impact of inflation, increases in the living wage Treasure trail for wall walk RESIDENTS Sara Henderson and Jo Tribley are taking part in a fiveday trek of the Great Wall of China in September to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust and Cancer Research UK. After a successful fundraising event in March, Sara, who is a florist and owner of Hunkerdown Daisy in Allington, and Jo, an afterschool French club teacher at Tiny Tots nursery school and Thurnham Infant school, are also organising a May Day treasure trail in Bearsted. Participants will follow a London Underground-style map to find out where letters are posted on a 2km trail around the village, with the winner receiving a day in London. The event will take place between 10am and noon on Monday, May 7. Maps are 5 each with all of the proceeds going to the two charities. They can be picked up from King George V Memorial Hall in Manor Rise, Bearsted. It s a rum do! A FESTIVAL showcasing more than 100 rums from around the world is coming to Maidstone this autumn. The Rum Festival will be at the Kent Event Centre on Saturday, October 6, and will feature live entertainment and street food. A cocktail team will mix any rum-based cocktails on request and there will be taster sessions and free samples, alongside drink tokens for rum with a mixer of your choice. Tickets start at 7.50, visit for more details. 22 Maidstone May 2018 and the soaring cost of utilities has meant that the charity is unable to consume the full effect of externally-imposed costs. I have been determined to keep the price increases as low as possible with the annual ticket increasing from April 1 by 60p. Even with the new level, we are much cheaper than Blenheim, Chatsworth and even the other castle west of us. It presents such huge value for money when one recognises that it allows entry to most of our major events, as well as the range of daily activities available. This is only the second increase in four years and we will do everything possible to ensure that this is not a recurring theme. He said he regretted having to bring in the photo ID tickets to prevent swapping online to avoid paying the full cost of the entry. The move prompted local criticism. Sir David wrote: While annual visitor numbers are down on last year, the sale of new annual tickets has been very good and we have maintained our overall income. I originally regretted having to introduce photographic ID for tickets, but our visitors have welcomed its introduction and the ticket loan culture is now under control. An annual adult ticket costs Brian and Grace Love, pictured in their new home at King s Lodge Couple s royal name a winner A MAIDSTONE couple have created their own piece of history by naming their new home. Grace and Brian Love were the first to move into new apartments built on the old bowling alley in Maidstone. They leapt at the chance to name the new development, and set about researching the history of the street in which it is found. Their research revealed that King Street takes its name from King George III riding down the street back in the 1700s, which was inspiration for their suggestion of the name King s Lodge. Shortly after moving in, they received a call to say they had won the naming competition. Grace and Brian, who lived just outside Maidstone, wanted to move closer to town due to physical problems and because they felt isolated living so far away from the town centre. Grace said: We called the development King s Lodge because of the site s historical connections, but now we ve moved in, there s no doubt that King s Lodge certainly is fit for a king , while students and pensioners get a discounted rate of There are concessions for children and for people with disabilities. Sir David revealed that during the heavy snow and icy temperatures of late February, dubbed the beast from the east, he rolled up his sleeves and served breakfast to paying guests staying at the castle. He writes: We were delighted that 20 guests had been staying with us overnight and they were very patient as the chief executive, hospitality manager and one intrepid professional chef organised and served breakfast! Search leads to drugs arrests FOUR men were arrested after heroin worth tens of thousands of pounds was seized following the search of a car in Maidstone. The vehicle was approached by plain clothes officers who saw a known drug user go to the car in Sandling Road. The officers seized a mobile phone from the car and when a connected address was searched, they found a large quantity of cash and more than one and a half kilos of what is believed to be heroin. A stun-gun, a knife and a bottle containing a noxious substance were also seized. The four were arrested in connection with the find. Two have been released under investigation and the others remain in police custody. Charity con A WOMAN pretending to be collecting for a children s charity stole jewellery after tricking her way into a pensioner s Maidstone home. Manuella Paun (19) and an 18- year-old woman called at an address in Sussex Road. They were later charged with the burglary on Friday, January 26, and were remanded in custody. Paun, of Gillingham, appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday, February 26, where she admitted the charge. The 18-year-old denied the charge. The case was adjourned to a date to be confirmed during the week commencing July 16. Both remain in custody.

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24 News downsmail.co.uk Drivers caught using phones KENT Police used an unmarked lorry cab to catch dozens of rogue drivers and most of them were using a mobile phone at the wheel. Witness plea after accident POLICE are appealing for witnesses to an accident in which a boy was seriously injured on a busy road in Maidstone. The youngster was rushed to a London hospital after being involved in a collision with a grey Toyota Aygo on Hermitage Lane on April 6. The child, who was a pedestrian, was hit at about 7pm, at the junction with Oakapple Lane. Police officers and South East Coast Ambulance Service went to the scene, where the boy was treated for serious injuries. Officers from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit are appealing for anyone who saw the car or the child immediately before or during the collision, or who has dashcam footage. They should call the appeal line on , quoting KH/JH/49/18, or NINE restaurants and outlets in Maidstone are making their loos available to the public as part of the council s Community Toilet Scheme. The closure of some outlets in the centre of town that were part of the scheme, introduced in 2009, means they have been removed from promotional material. A spokesman for Maidstone Borough Council said: We are pleased to have the support of nine Maidstone businesses so far 24 Maidstone May 2018 THE former Buddha Belly restaurant in the heart of the county town will re-open in May as a venue to attract customers morning, noon and night. The premises at the corner of Pudding Lane and the High Street is the latest acquisition for Elite Pubs. Elite already owns a number of other venues, including The Potting Shed in Langley. The new one will be called The Herbalist, with a latenight space downstairs, called Junipers. Events manager Aline Koehler- Price said: The plan is for The Herbalist to become a social hub, where people can come for breakfast or a pint, a pizza and a chat. It s something different from the rest of Maidstone. The two venues will have separate entrances, but once inside, clients will be able to mingle between the The vehicle, which was provided by the Highways Agency, was used on Kent s main carriageways across the county, including on the M20. The cab s height gave officers the opportunity to look directly into offenders cars, van and trucks. During the operation, a total of 44 drivers were stopped and on 31 of these occasions, it was for using a mobile phone at the wheel. A further six were stopped for driving at excess speed and two were stopped for travelling in the third lane of a motorway. Offences were dealt with by way of a graduated fixed penalty notice or traffic offence report, meaning the matter will be investigated further before an appropriate course of action is recommended. Sergeant Grant Steele, from Kent Police s Roads Policing Unit, said: This unmarked lorry cab, provided by Highways England, is one example of the innovative ways we seek to keep our roads safe. We are committed to protecting and serving road users in Kent and our patrols will continue to take action against those placing others in unnecessary danger. Nearly 15 years after mobile phone legislation came into force, it is extremely disappointing to see drivers continuing to break the law especially those who drive as a profession. Driving while distracted by a mobile phone is one of the four most common causes of a fatal injury. It is not acceptable. Choosing to ignore the law two, with the hope that it will be an inclusive experience. Group bar manager Scott means you are deciding that your phone call or text message is more important than someone else s life. Colin Evans, safety co-ordinator in the south east for Highways England, said: Safety is our top priority, and I am pleased that our HGV cab has been so useful in helping the Police in Kent to identify unsafe behaviour on the motorways and major A roads. It provides an ideal viewing platform for police officers to identify dangerous behaviour that can be difficult to spot from standard police patrol vehicles. Highways England is committed to working collaboratively with Kent Police to improve road safety. Elite to open town centre venue Restaurants open toilets to public who feel strongly about supporting the scheme, and hope that Aline Koehler-Price and Scott Rotheram with Andrew Moore, director of Christie & Co, who helped with the acquisition of the building more will join next year. Businesses are paid 150 per quarter to make their facilities available to the public. They must maintain a code of cleanliness and accessibility set by the council. Those in the scheme are: Mc- Donalds in Tonbridge Road and Week Street; Maidstone Museum; The Mall, King Street; Maidstone Market; Wetherspoons Muggleton Inn and Society Rooms; The Royal Albion pub and the Royal Star Arcade. Rotheram said there would be two 250-litre beer tanks, and craft lagers would be featured. Footpath death AN INQUEST has opened into the death of a 20-year-old who died near The Malta at Allington on Easter Sunday. The body of the man, named locally as Adam Aldosari, was recovered by ambulance men called to the scene, along with police, at about 5.30pm on April 1. The death of the man, who was found on a footpath near the river, is not being treated as suspicious. His next of kin have been informed. Mr Aldosari is believed to be Polish.

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26 News Women arrested over jail supply FOUR women have been arrested in connection with the supply of drugs and mobile phones into Maidstone prison. The four, aged between 19 and 51, were arrested following a joint operation involving Kent Police, West Yorkshire Police and HM Prison service. A 31-year-old was arrested in Gillingham on suspicion of conveying prohibited property into a prison, money laundering and possession with intent to supply cannabis. A 19-year-old and a 51-year-old were arrested in Faversham and a 28-year-old in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, on suspicion of money laundering. The investigation relates to alleged offences between February 2017 and February Detective Sergeant Dan Barker said: When prohibited articles get into the hands of prisoners they fuel violence, medical emergencies and also lead to further crimes being committed, both inside and outside the prison estate. All the suspects were later released pending further investigation. Sell your unwanted items downsmail.co.uk Young dancers named as British champions A TEAM of young dancers from Maidstone are celebrating after becoming British champions. Mini D-Fuse, which was only founded in September 2016, won the SOAR British Street Dance Championships in Manchester. After winning the regional competition to book their place at the Manchester finals, the U8 team went on to win the national prize. Delighted teacher Lauren Bowden said: I am beyond proud of Mini D-Fuse for becoming British Champions at such a young age. It is something I will cherish forever. They have come on in leaps and bounds since the troupe formed in September They live and breathe dancing, and it is so lovely to see all their hard work pay off. The youngsters are part of Dance Dynamics, which was formed in 2008 and has three branches across Maidstone at Beechwood Community Hall, David Lloyd Maidstone and St Augustine Academy. The school offers a variety of Mini-D-Fuse celebrating their triumph classes, from ballet and musical theatre to street dance, commercial jazz and cheerpom classes, as well as fitness classes. Dance Dynamics principal, Michelle Smyth, said: It was one of my proudest moments when the students danced at the SOAR British Street Dance Championships then when they announced Mini D-Fuse had won first place I was over the moon. The kids have worked so hard for this, with the support of teachers Lauren Bowden and Harry Short. I am also extremely proud of the other teams, DFJ and D-Fuse, who won second and third places at Championship level. The team are sponsored by Digital Image Solutions Ltd and KRA Brown Electrical Services Ltd. For more information about Dance Dynamics Dance School visit online Free Ad Image, full description, contact details, easy to upload Connecting with local people Make sure your heading clearly states what you have to sell Type in a description of the item you are selling. Put as little or as much information as you like but the more details you can include the more likely you are to find a potential buyer. Include as many options as you wish in the contact details eg. telephone, mobile, . Specify times to call if appropriate - weekends only, anytime, after 6pm etc. Include an image with your free ad. Just take a photo with your mobile phone or digital camera and save it to your computer. Click on select an image straight after selecting the red button to upload your free ad. This will bring up a window containing the files on your computer. Locate the required photo on your computer, double click on the file and the image you have selected will appear. 26 Maidstone May 2018 Malling October

27 downsmail.co.uk Missing Gloria, 81, is found in back garden THE body of missing Hollingbourne woman Gloria Stringer was found in a garden in Willington Street late last month. Gloria (81) vanished on New Year s Day, sparking a huge search. But a body was discovered on Good Friday, and officers say they are no longer searching for her. Her family, who set up a Facebook page to help find her, were informed of the discovery in the Willington Street garden. It is understood that she was identified from a watch and a hospital wrist-band. An inquest into her death will be held in July. A police spokesman said over the Easter bank holiday: A search for an 81-year-old woman reported missing from Hollingbourne in January has led to the recovery of a body. At 11.55am on Friday, March 30, a woman s body was found Formal identification has not yet taken place, however the next of kin of the missing woman have been in- Leeds resident Gloria Stringer formed. The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A report will now be prepared for the coroner. Concerted searches were launched as Storm Eleanor swept in on January 2, when police combed the banks of the River Len in Old Mill Lane and volunteers from Kent Search and Rescue scoured fields. Police officers, who have been praised for the efforts they put in to try and find Gloria, went door to door, asking residents to check their sheds and outbuildings in case Gloria had taken refuge there. The searches concentrated on Leeds, Otham, Kingswood, Langley, Chart Sutton, Downswood and near Leeds Castle. A search helicopter was also deployed, but as the days slipped by, hope faded that she would be found alive. Gloria was known in the Hollingbourne and Leeds areas and was thought to be physically fit but suffering from episodes of confusion. From time to time she would be seen at jumble sales in Leeds. A resident who knew her said: We hoped that she d be found alive somewhere, but as time went on, it was pretty obvious it wasn t going to be good news. At least now her family can deal with their loss. News Two charged over theft bid TWO men from Coventry have been charged in connection with attempted theft from a Maidstone hardware store. Officers were called at 3.51pm on Thursday, April 5, following a report that the two men were acting suspiciously in the B&Q store in Barker Road. Patrols went to the scene and, after stopping a car in Hart Street, arrested 43-year-old Richard Campbell and Neil Cunningham (42). They were both later charged with attempted theft and were bailed to appear before Maidstone Magistrates Court on Wednesday, May 2. Booze jobs risk THE owners of the chain Bargain Booze which has a store in Maidstone, is facing administration. About 2,500 jobs are feared to be at risk nationally. It is the latest big name retailer to come to grief in recent months, alongside Maplin and Toys R Us. Its parent company, Conviviality, had issued a string of profit warnings and the chief executive stepped down. The stores are trading normally while administrators are sought. Maidstone May

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30 News downsmail.co.uk Warning as ash trees are beaten by disease Custard pies at the ready... COMPETITION is hotting up for the Coxheath Pie Throwing contest, with The Katie Creams already having thrown their hat into the ring. Chloë Whelan (pictured) heads up the team of Kate Cox, Kate Thomas and Charlotte Field. She said: 'I cannot wait to grab a pie, aim for the face and slap it hard. Anyone who hasn t experienced custard pie throwing really should give it a go; plus it s the only day I know that fancy dress is so publicly celebrated! The tournament, attended by Penelope Keith last year, will be held in the grounds of Coxheath Village Hall in Stockett Lane on June 2. Teams of four, which will again include a pie squad from Japan, can register, for 40. THEY have dominated our countryside for about 12,000 years but people are being urged to make the most of our ash trees before they disappear forever. It is feared that up to 98% of the trees, the dominant ones in the Downs, will be wiped out in the next 10 years as ash dieback or Chalara runs through them. The trees in Mote Park are among those to be hit by the disease, and most of the towns and villages in the area are populated by ash trees. Madeleine Hodge, of the Ash Project, set up to highlight the trees plight, said: It s not scaremongering to say this is a large-scale economic catastrophe. It will change the landscape of the Downs forever. We can t stop it, but we want to celebrate the trees that we have while we still do. We want people to take photos and record what it s like we ve seen lime and elm trees die out and we have no records of them, and we want people to love the landscape before it s too late. What is happening to the ash trees is a real concern. It is a seriously degraded landscape. The ash tree is prominent in Kent and we are already seeing a dramatic change. It is not just the visual effect of the landscape that needs attention, with a number of species also at risk if the ash trees fall away and even some risk to road users. Volunteer tree warden David Carey said: We might expect most ash trees in woods around Maidstone to be badly affected or die in Ash trees dominate the north downs but for how much longer? Pictures: Fiona Fyfe and Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the next 15 years. It will mean a loss of diversity of trees and fewer specific insects. It s also bad for the wood owners as ash sells well as firewood. It doesn t look good. Even the largest well grown trees in more open areas will be increasingly affected. They could pose increasing dangers to pedestrians and traffic, unless they are expensively managed, as they die slowly and lose larger branches over the next couple of decades. Your business is our business LOCAL businesses are as important an element to community life as a parish council, cricket club or the Women s Institute. Here at the Downs Mail we have always recognised the pivotal role commerce plays in a vibrant, thriving economy. Be they small, medium or large enterprises, we have tried to celebrate the great things they bring jobs, career paths, training, entrepreneurship, industry awards, innovation and prestige. That is why we have been promoting our recently-enhanced Business Notice Board (BNB) at downsmail.co.uk in recent months. And it is paying off. Our BNB is rap- idly becoming a place where the busi- ness world can communicate with one another, share ideas, offer advice, drum up business or simply promote them- selves. And it is completely FREE to use. You can use it as many times as you like without having to pay a penny. Perhaps you have news you d like to share, seek tenders for an important contract, trum- pet a new product or put feelers out for specialist expertise. Feel free. Use it, it s yours! Taking notice ORGANISATIONS are able to make as many entries and use as many categories as they wish on our Business Notice Board. They can upload an image, headline, detailed text, contact details and links to their own and associated websites. The service is quick and easy to use go to the business no- tice board page on our website and just click on the red post your free listing here button or submit your business news link to get started. Directory advert THE Downs Mail Business Directory is a searchable database of local businesses, suppliers and tradespeople where companies can advertise for a year for just 48 plus VAT. 30 Maidstone May 2018

31 downsmail.co.uk Stewards rewarded for service to county show FACES familiar to those attending Kent s county show, near Maidstone, have been honoured for their work. Mary Anthony, Roz Day and Roy Keeler have, together, given more than 100 years service to the county s showcase event at Detling. Thanking them for their dedication at the Kent County Agricultural Society s AGM, was chairman Kevin Attwood and society president The Lord Colgrain, who presented them with long-service awards and added: The help and support of these stewards is instrumental to the running of the annual Kent County Show. They have taken a leading role in areas such as floral art, equine events, education and forestry, which are crucial to the success of the show. Mary, who lives at Stockbury and Roz, from Headcorn, have been stewarding for 30 years, while Roy, who lives in Mereworth, joined the society when it moved to Detling 50 years ago. Kevin Attwood (left), Roz Day and The Lord Colgrain Roz has served as chairman of the Society s Education Committee and is chief steward of the Garden Life Marquee that hosts the flower show, NAFAS floral art competition, Kent Federation of Horticultural Societies Summer Show, schools miniature garden competition and the Kent Bees and Honey Show. She is also a board director. Mary has been an equine steward, board director and, more recently, vice-chair of the equinecommittee. Roy started volunteering for the society in 1964 and helped plant Murrain Wood. The RD Keeler Trophy, named in his honour, is now awarded annually to Kent youngsters showing a commitment to forestry studies. To volunteer, News Fall in number of teen mums TEENAGE pregnancies are at their lowest rate in Maidstone since the swinging 60s, but Kent continues to record the highest number of unplanned pregnancies in the South East a figure likely to rise as a result of cuts to sexual health services. The Family Planning Association says an 800m cut in public health spending has closed more than one in three council contraceptive care services, and almost a fifth of youngsters now wait more than two weeks for an appointment. The comments are in response to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics and the UK s teenage birth rate, which remains one of the highest in western Europe. The figures show conception rates for those aged 15 to 17 in 2016 at 15 per 1,000 in the South East a 12% fall on 2015, and a 60% drop since However, in Maidstone, a rate of 18.1 unplanned pregnancies (51 cases) is the highest in Kent, behind Thanet, Swale and Medway. The county s total of 608 unplanned pregnancies in 2016 was the highest figure in the South East. Glebe Fencing Ltd has a reputation synonymous with quality workmanship and superior installations. Established for more than 12 years, the team at Glebe pride themselves on customer service through consistently delivering high quality fencing, decking and gate installations. We are looking for Fencing Installers, preferably with fencing experience - Must have a valid UK driving license and valid green or blue CSCS card - The working day will be Monday Friday, 7am 5pm with occasional overtime. Alternate Saturday work is also expected - Salary will vary depending upon experience For more details please contact: Office: Fax: Web: Maidstone May

32 News Dealer found with heroin in hotel room A LONDON drug dealer who had more than 100 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine on a Maidstone hotel bed has been jailed. Kane White, of Lewisham, was sentenced to two years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to four charges when he appeared at Maidstone Crown Court. White was spotted making an exchange with a known heroin user on September 29, and was followed by plain clothes police to a hotel in St Michael s Road, Maidstone, where he was arrested. A search of his room led to the discovery of the drugs, a lock knife, 1,300 and some cannabis. The 21-year-old told police he was being forced to sell the drugs by another dealer from Lewisham in order to pay off a debt, and that he had never been involved in supplying heroin and crack before. However, witnesses reported that he had been a regular visitor to the same hotel. White pleaded guilty to charges of possessing heroin with intent to supply, possessing crack cocaine with intent to supply, possession of cannabis and possession of criminal property the 1,300 in cash. Chief Inspector Mick Gardner said: The sentencing of Kane White is yet another example of how just how effective our officers continue to be in dealing with those who try to sell drugs in Maidstone. Support from the public also remains invaluable, and over the past year this has been vital in helping us detect and also deter drug dealers from targeting this town. A significant number of criminals are now behind bars, but it is important to remain focused and we are never complacent. There remains a lot of hard work to do, to deal with people like White, whose actions can really devastate people s lives. A MAN has been jailed after throwing a drug-filled tennis ball over the wall into Maidstone Prison. Luke Laurence, of Avondale Road in Walthamstow, was sentenced to eight months in prison when he appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday March 28, having previously pleaded guilty to conveying a prohibited article into prison and possessing cannabis. The court heard that on September 19, the 21-year-old was seen by a member of the public facing the prison wall, wearing latex gloves and holding a package. To avoid being spotted, the member of the public circled the prison and then informed them that there could be a throwover situation. When the witness returned to the location, Laurence was still wearing the gloves but the package had disappeared. The witness took a picture on a phone and made a note of the details of a vehicle in which they saw him drive away before calling police. Inside HMP Maidstone, prison officers in a recreation area noticed a prisoner kick a small tennis ball with tape over it and another parcel nearby. These items were seized, and a further search uncovered another tennis ball and a black sock, containing cannabis and a mobile phone. downsmail.co.uk Jail for throwing drugs tennis ball into prison Ben Manning and Paul Cordier in Mr Scrooge Players looking for new blood LEEDS Amateur Dramatic Society is at a crossroads. Many members are expected to stand down at the next committee meeting so new members and volunteers are needed to lead the group. The committee meets for about an hour every two months in The George Inn, Lower Street, Leeds, to discuss future productions. Anyone who would like to join them can go to Leeds village hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday, May 15th. Secretary Lesley Finlay said: Committee members play an active part in planning productions depending on how much time they have to offer. The group performed a successful Twelfth Night review in January and is rehearsing the Plays and Picnics event at The Old Vicarage, Lower Street on Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23. To keep up to date with the group, follow them on Facebook Samdram. The vehicle seen by the witness was registered to Laurence, and DNA samples taken from clingfilm inside the packages provided a match. Laurence was arrested at his home address, where more cannabis was found. Investigating officer, Detective Constable Jo Hazelwood, said: The witness was able to provide us with some high-quality evidence, and this played an important role in us identifying Laurence as the offender. The illegal supply of banned items in prisons creates an atmosphere of violence and is known to lead to further crimes being committed inside and outside of prison. Charity medals taken by thieves TWO charity medals were among a large number of possessions stolen from a house in Maidstone. Police were called to Shaftesbury Drive in Allington on Monday, February 19, where a window had been smashed. Thieves had searched the house, stealing a number of items. The two medals, one silver and one bronze, were in recognition of service to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. About 60 bottles of wine, some from The Wine Society with a distinctive yellow Exhibition label, were also taken, along with jewellery, a metal detector and a new LG television. Detective Mark Ansdell said: Due to the large number of items stolen, it is likely a vehicle was needed to transport them. If you have been offered the medals or any of the other stolen items, please get in touch. Call Kent Police on , quoting reference YY/5616/18, or Kent Crimestoppers on Cause of sink hole is still a mystery, says councillor MYSTERY surrounds the cause of the huge sink hole which opened up in Barming. Soil gave way, swallowing a footpath, pavement, part of the road and the front drive of a bungalow in Broomshaw Road. Borough councillor Fay Gooch, who lives a two-minute walk away from the cul de sac, said the landslide set dogs barking, but many homeowners were unaware of the chaos as they enjoyed a lie-in. At the time she thought the landslide might have been a casualty of the Beast from the East. However, she later said those working on site were unsure of the cause. Cllr Gooch said: The rumour is that it could be the result of springs in the area, a damaged main, quarrying, or a sink hole like that experienced off Hermitage Lane about eight years ago. It s a mystery. Downs Mail asked South East Water to comment. Its staff handed out water to those left without supplies within hours of the incident. For updates, keep tuned to 32 Maidstone May 2018

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34 News House prices downsmail.co.uk Summer house prices to hot up THE summer looks set to see further growth in property prices across the region, according to estate agents in the borough. THE average property price in Kent shot up by around 11,000 in According to Zoopla, the average value of properties in parts of Kent saw astonishing rises. For example, figures show Swanley, which has an average price of 364,434, saw the highest leap in property value of 28,110. In Tonbridge, with an average property value of 482,180, prices went up by an average of 24,128. West Malling saw the average property price increase to 480,023, a jump of 24,071. According to Zoopla figures, it comes as the average price of a property in Kent is 11,418 more than a year ago, at 346,048. Nigel Harvey, director at Seekers estate agents, believes prices in the Maidstone area will remain resilient With mortgage interest rates on offer at an all-time low, in spite of the Bank of England warning that interest rates will rise this year, property prices across Maidstone, Malling and the region stand 5.9% higher than a year ago. Claire Harvey, from Seekers in Maidstone, believes house prices in the area over the next 12 months will end up between 0.2% lower and 1.5% higher, although she warns it will probably be a bumpy ride to get to these sorts of figures. The influence of inflation, rising interest rates, and Brexit, and its effect on the London market will be among the major factors, she says. A quick look at property prices by Downs Mail on five of the key house selling websites puts average prices on a two-bed house in Maidstone at 220,000 and a five-bed at 569,000; in Tovil 193,000 and 568,000 respectively, while in Bearsted, the same properties will set you back 387,000 and 618,000. In West Malling, the average price is 308,000 and 688,000 for a fivebed home, and in Aylesford 259,000 and 625,000. In villages such as Staplehurst, the same size properties are commanding an average 300,000 and 605,000. Tim Ferris, the owner of Ferris and Co estate agents, which has offices in Bearsted and Penenden Heath, says 2018 started with a shortage of properties to sell. He added: But then we gained a healthy supply of properties and are experiencing great demand across all price ranges. We were warned at the beginning of the year by Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, interest rates would rise this year by one or two quarter points, which will slow the market and so the spring and summer will undoubtedly represent the most buoyant period in the property market in Nigel Harvey, director at Seekers, concludes: Maidstone house values will remain resilient because demand for rental property remains strong, with persistent immigration and population growth and the simple lack of new house building in Maidstone - not even keeping up with current demand, let alone eating into years of under investment. It means one thing: property ownership and investment in Maidstone will always outride the storm. But, in some areas, the average property value has fallen. In Romney Marsh, properties dropped by 9,021 on average to 277,677 and Longfield saw a drop of 2,754 to make its overall property price 460,862. Managing director of Rochester estate agents Dockside Property Services, Spencer Fortag, said that property investments boosts consumer spending and economic growth. But he conceded a strong sellers market makes homes less affordable for the first-time buyer. He added: It s almost a forgone conclusion that house prices increase so it s no great surprise. Average prices across the region Location 2-bed 2-bed 3-bed 5-bed (Prices in k) flat house house house Maidstone Barming Fant Tovil Bearsted Leeds Grove Green Headcorn East Farleigh Staplehurst West Malling Holborough Lakes Aylesford Kent rises astonishing National hike unexpected HOUSE prices in the United Kingdom in March saw the biggest monthly gain since August, according to the Halifax. The country s biggest mortgage lender said that the average price of a house rose by 1.5% to 227,871 last month.prices in the three months to March were 2.7% higher than the year before, up from the 1.8% annual growth in February.The news was unexpected after months of lacklustre growth and even declines in December and January, said Halifax. Even in the capital, where house prices have seen a sustained rise in recent years, there were drops of 15% in prime locations such as Wandsworth. But Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: The jump in Halifax s measure of house prices in March just looks like volatility, rather than the start of a strong upward trend. Halifax s index is prone to large swings. Russell Galley, Halifax s managing director, said low unemployment, low mortgage rates and the ongoing shortage of properties for sale would underpin price growth in coming months. Halifax is predicting annual price growth to remain close to 3%. Additonal research: Amy Martin 34 Maidstone May 2018

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36 Obituaries Peter Wilding Jones PETER Wilding Jones (87) lived in central Maidstone for 50 years. Before that, he resided in Headcorn, where his father was the local postmaster. Having earned a scholarship to Su on Valence School, Peter began work in the Post Office with his father. He went on to work in a number of local roles, including a sales job with Vaughans fireplace shop on Tonbridge Road (which was then on the opposite side of the road to the current shop), 25 years working for the print union SOGAT and finally in a garage on Rawdon Road, Tovil, where he filled cars for customers. Peter was married to Ivy for 65 years, and the couple spent 73 years together, having started their romance as teenagers. He was father to Peter, Sally and Katherine (Kate). Kate said: My father was an intelligent and creative person who wrote poetry, which was used on family occasions, and painted pictures. His ability to be articulate and solve problems was a great asset in his union work, but his creative talents were put to many uses. One which satisfied him the most was when he finally got to play Santa Claus to a play group, where the audience included two of his granddaughters. He was so good that even they didn t spot him. He was involved and active to the end of his life. He and my mother ran an over 60s club at the Rosemary Graham Centre, in Parkwood, when they were in their late 70s. Peter leaves his wife, children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. John and Marina Morrison THE deaths of John and Marina Morrison (84 and 83 respectively) occurred within a fortnight of each other. The pair who lived in Fant were wellknown locally as stalwarts of Labour politics, with four decades as members and Camrass Wills Advice you can trust campaigners for Labour causes. Both had fought election campaigns and John held the Park Wood ward from 1980 to 2002, in one election polling 71% of the votes. He also spent a year from 2002 as elected representative for Fant. A joint funeral took place at Vinters Park Crematorium, with many of the couple s peers and Labour colleagues in a endance. Jim Gibson JAMES Jim Gibson (70), of Penenden Heath, Maidstone, died peacefully at home. Jim was born and grew up in South Dakota, USA, and studied music and English at Houghton College, New York. He completed a Ph.D in English at University of Pennsylvania, where he met his wife of 20 years, Lizzie. Jim lectured in English literature and writing at Houghton College, before coming to Kent on sabbatical in 1984 to begin editing the Kent volumes for international research project Records of Early English Drama. Jim chose to remain in Kent, producing several books and scholarly articles on Shakespearean and medieval drama. Alongside his own research, he was archivist to the Rochester Bridge Trust for 30 years and undertook periodic archival projects with historical charities and the University of Kent. Daughter Rosie said: People knew my father as a gentle, wise and considerate man with a dry sense of humour and a hearty laugh. He was deeply appreciated by his colleagues and loved by his family and friends. He will be missed tremendously. Jim loved to play bridge, bake bread (a frequent gift to friends) and read widely. He played violin most of his life, and spent many years in the Maidstone Symphony Orchestra. He also taught violin to children, including his own. Jim preached regular sermons as a lay reader at Holy Cross Church, Bearsted. He is survived by his sister Pat, children Do you need help with probate? Do you want to buy a funeral plan? We offer help & advice Home visits All fees agreed before you proceed DipPFS MSWW downsmail.co.uk Nicholas and Rosie, and his grandchildren, Lois and Eleanor. Grace Evelyn Benne GRACE Evelyn Benne (103) has died at the Lavenders, West Malling. She moved to the area with her three children in 1957, to be near her sister after the death of Grace s first husband Harry. In 1970, Grace married local widower John Bennet and the couple se led in Whiteheads Lane, Bearsted. John died suddenly after 10 years of marriage. but Grace continued to live in Bearsted. Grace was born in October 1914, one of eight children. She worked as a telephonist doing shift work throughout the Bli in London. Her first husband was a wildlife artist. They married during the war at Epping Church, Essex, and lived together in a watermill on the Essex/Suffolk border. Daughter Merrilyn said: My mother was president of the Madgingford Women s Institute on two occasions in the 70s and 80s and was always an enthusiastic, active member of the amateur dramatics section, the darts team, the crafts group and organised many outings. There were three branches of the WI in Bearsted in those days. She also ran the Over 60s Club in Bearsted until she was in her mid-80s. She spent many hours making children s clothes to be distributed in Africa and Outer Mongolia, winning an award for her work. She will be sadly missed. Joy Sage THE death has been reported of former local head teacher Joy Sage (79). Born in Lamberhurst, Joy worked in the local area as a teacher and eventually deputy head of Allington Primary School, from 1982 to Joy leaves her husband Roger and sons, Barry and Colin. Fred Malle FREDERICK James Fred Malle (83) will be remembered as landlord for many years of the Who d a Thought It pub in Headcorn Road, Grafty Green. Fred who died on 14 March leaves his wife Joan, children Richard, Joe and Leigh- Anne and his grandchildren. 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37 downsmail.co.uk Barming Council tribute Councillors had a period of silence to remember Jean Grice, a former chairman of the council, who died on February 18. Parish meeting It was agreed to cater for 20 people at the annual parish meeting, with Cllr Willson to arrange the food, Cllr Doe to provide paper cups and Cllr Manser to arrange the drinks. The clerk had invited local groups, the county councillor and the PCSO, while Cllr Manser had invited all hall hirers. Mrs Vizzard had agreed to be the guest speaker for the evening. Heave works Three quotes had been received for the hardstanding area: 6,120; 6,410 plus VAT; and 15,350 plus VAT. It was decided to accept the quotation of 6,410, and the clerk was to ask the insurance company for advice on the ma er. Car park Only one quote had been received for the work to resurface the parish field car park, so the search would continue. Parish field An annual le er had been drafted to be sent to South Street residents whose gardens back on to the parish field, reminding them that they have no right of access to the field. A resident had asked if they could put a bouncy castle on the field for a private party, but the council decided to decline this due to safety concerns. Members were happy to agree to a request to use the field for a charity football match, if the users understood that members of the public would still be using the field. Pitch worries Barming Youth FC had been advised by the school not to play on their field due to wet weather, and the council agreed the same should apply to the parish field. Cllrs Gooch and Manser agreed to discuss the ma er with the football club and in the meantime, they would be asked to assess the conditions on the day. Tree maintenance A quote 150 had been accepted to cut back the sides of the trees on the Church Lane side of the parish field. Members were also keen to keep the oak tree on council land at Cedar Drive in good condition, and the quotation of 200 for the work was accepted. Remembrance service No suggestions were received, so an article was placed in the A FENCE attached to a block of flats was damaged by youths in St Leonards Road. A blue Ford Fiesta (S848***) was stolen in Liphook Way. An S-type Jaguar in Fordwich Close was damaged by graffiti and all four tyres were slashed. Glass doors leading onto a balcony were damaged at a home in North Pole Road, East Barming. In Malling Road, Teston, eight boat batteries were stolen from the driveway of a home. A Vauxhall Corsa parked on a drive in Buckland Road had a front and rear tyre slashed. A Saab and one other car in the same road also had tyres slashed. A brick was thrown through a window at a house in Buckland Hill. Two children's bikes were stolen from a basement of a block of a flats in London Road. Graffiti was sprayed on the windows of a Barming News. The friends of St Margaret s Church had been contacted to consider arranging an event at the village hall. Resurfacing Church Lane is due to be resurfaced on June 6 and 7, although the parish had not had confirmation. Finances It was decided to continue the annual subscription to Rural Kent. A request for funding from the Yalding Parish Council playscheme was denied. Loose Potholes Borough councillor Sue Grigg told the council that there were concerns about potholes, but it may take Kent County Council a while to get the backlog sorted. Camper van Cllr Grigg reported that there were overhead wires trailing to a camper van parked on Old Loose Hill from the owner s house. This might mean someone is living in the van. The community warden, Liz Lova, was asked to investigate. Scams Liz Lova s report mentioned that criminals were contacting residents claiming to be from the Police or Trading Standards, and that poor work has been carried out. They insist the resident pays money that will be reimbursed after the court hearing. There were also warnings of doorstep criminals offering to do work on gu ering, roofs or driveways. Liz had also been working with vulnerable residents in the bad weather and distributing water to those with burst pipes. School parking The warden and PCSO were to arrange a date to go to Loose Primary School to talk to drivers who park inconsiderately close to the school. Kitchen works Cllr Luckhurst explained the latest on the proposed new kitchen in the pavilion. Samples were approved, tiling and the sink were discussed. The chairman would supply flooring, and the work will be completed in school holidays. Cllr Hollister was to remove the old kitchen. Speedwatch The Speedwatch team were still waiting for the equipment to arrive. Li er Cllr Luckhurst provided an update on the Love Loose Hate Li er campaign. The campaign had been promised 500 from KCC and 200 from the Loose Amenities Association (LAA). The launch was to be on home in Fordwich Close. There was an attempted break-in via a cellar window and conservatory at a house in St Luke's Road. No access was gained. In Wheeler Street, windows were damaged at a block of flats. An MG car was damaged in the street in Twyford Road. Both number plates were stolen from a Peugot 207 in a car park in Quarry Square. A shed at an allotment was broken into in Upper Fant Road and a jacket, petrol can and exterior light were stolen. A door was damaged and two batteries were also stolen in Upper Fant Road. A garage in a block in Terminus Road was broken into and a grey/orange Decathlon Triban 540 bicycle and a red April 21. Brooks Field Terry Davis reported the LAA had received some late representations regarding the shed on Brooks Field and some members had requested that they reconsult with householders as the unit differed from the previous plans. The clerk was to contact LAA and ask that the project be put into the planning department as soon as possible. McAlpine Trust Six trustees were needed to represent the parish council, and Cllr Hollister agreed to be the sixth. Parish meeting The agenda for the meeting on April 25 was agreed. The clerk was to ask community groups if they would like a stall and to speak. A defibrillator demonstration and a slot for the Neighbourhood Plan Group was agreed. Bouncy castles It was agreed that changes needed to be made to the hire agreement in order for bouncy castles to be used at the Pavilion. It would be amended to say that bouncy castles were not covered by LPC insurance, and that evidence the castle owner has public liability insurance will be required. Social media Staff had met with Boxley Parish Council s clerks regarding the use of Facebook and a Community Alert system. It was agreed that Loose would set up both. Tovil Car park It was agreed to stick to the twohour waiting time per stay in the car park and to research the issue of permits for business use. The clerk was to write to MBC and withdraw the request to change to a one-hour stay, request a copy of the original agreement concerning monitoring and enforcement and to add monitoring of the car park to the next agenda. Tree work A replacement tree was to be planted at Lower Tovil and investigations were to be made into additional landscaping work at Reeds cut-through, next to Lidl. Arriva would be contacted again about the trees on Postley Road. Police presence The clerk was to contact the PCSO, his sergeant and the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner concerning the lack of police presence at meetings. Neighbourhood Watch Working to reduce crime. Call Crimestoppers or local police Halfbike were stolen. Eight bags of compost was stolen from a fenced front garden in Hackney Road. A house in Florence Road was broken into and an Apple Iphone 7 was stolen. Two youths were seen kicking the wing mirror of a VW Golf in Oakwood Road. A Fuji black mountain bike with fluorescent green lettering and spokes was taken from a driveway in Bramble Close. A Volvo V50 parked on a driveway in The Mallows had a hole made in the windscreen. A gate was stolen from a garden in Egerton Road. A fence was damaged at a house in John Street. In the same road, four tyres were damaged on a Ford Focus. Parish Councils Crime Reports Maidstone May

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46 downsmail.co.uk Comment Body blow for town centre WE all know something needs to be done about Maidstone s inadequate roads and traffic congestion but I cannot go along with Maidstone Council s plans for our diminished parkand-ride service (now only two sites instead of four) and heftily-increased town centre parking charges. I fear it will be another critical blow for our town centre economy, unpopular with many residents and discriminatory against elderly and disabled people who cannot use their free bus passes when parking at park-and-ride sites, or even pay with cash. The council wants to persuade us from our cars on to buses but I think it is a losing ba le. It s a political hot potato too with influential Conservatives and former Ukippers strongly opposed to a predominately Lib Dem proposal. Our cars have too much going for them: readily available door to door; normally much faster than using public transport; a carrier of our families, shopping and other luggage; comfort with entertainment of our choice, easy for MailMarks DENNIS FOWLE President moving from one venue to the next. My belief is that, for most, the choice will be paying the extra town centre parking charges or driving to places where parking is free or cheaper. This will be good news for many of the big supermarkets and out-of-centre stores and Marks and Spencer will not be able to get their new Eclipse Park store up and running quickly enough. I expect any growth in use of Maidstone s park-and-ride will be small. There may even be a reverse if the army of bus pass holders rebel, and I know some already who will. The current threats to high street trade across the country and the very worrying decline are well documented and the signs are increasingly evident in Maidstone. I fear this will all escalate. The council has wisely decided to review the changes in the autumn. I will be surprised if evidence suggests continuing the trial period beyond the initial year. Talk Tables ROTARY clubs in the Maidstone area have been introduced to an interesting new charity which promotes Talk Tables in cafes, restaurants etc. The idea is these establishments reserve and promote a Talk Table which clients are invited to join if they so wish. There they meet other sociable people to talk and make new friends. Users are encouraged to donate 1 or more to this new charity. A list of charities supported can be found on Talk Table s Facebook page. One of them is Flat Spaces, which provides unique and sensitive holiday accommodation for people with disabilities Shifting the blame FROM the comments in your April edition, one would never realise that the housing numbers for Maidstone were imposed on the council by the government s methodology and the Local Plan implementing these figures was reluctantly supported by the majority of councillors of all parties. For cynical reasons, certain election candidates are pretending that the Conservative Party did not support this plan, and that they are not taking part in running the council. They are also blaming MBC for the state of the town s roads and for the vexed policy of modal shift. I would point out that it is Kent County Council (KCC) which is the highway authority, it is KCC which could have built the relief road years ago. Just as it could have built the southern approach road. The policies of modal shift are policies KCC itself supports in its own policy documents and are strongly pressed on councils by the current government. It has been made very clear by the Plan Inspector that without such policies, the Local Plan would have been turned down and the government would have taken over and put in its own plan. No one believes that would have led to less development. Instead of pretending that the current situation is all a Lib Dem plot and that voting in a new council leader can magically change government policies, perhaps our local Conservatives might like to discuss what we actually do to progress solutions. For example, finding a way to build the Leeds/Langley bypass that does not require funding from developer contributions from new housing. Because if it does end up being funded by such contributions, then the amount of development needed to fund the road could more than wipe out any improvement to traffic conditions. Councillor Clive English, Maidstone Borough Council Glad to have Theresa back IT IS good that Downs Mail ran an article on Bearsted Library, but a real shame that there was no mention of our wonderful librarian,theresa, who has now returned to us. It was also a shame that there were no pictures of the children s room, which has been very a ractively presented for such a small space. The article gave a very good explanation of the issues around the old library having to close, but it would have been good, I think, to have shown the new one from the inside. We are very, very glad to have Theresa back. She is always welcoming, enthusiastic and helpful a real asset to Bearsted. Marion Robson, via Park and ride injustice HAVING just read in the borough council s Borough Insight about the 2.50 parking charge for the park and ride coming into action on June 1, I am absolutely fuming. Firstly, we did not know about this consultation, or it was kept very quiet, and were not given an opportunity to voice objections. The article simply gives it as a decision already made. This is certainly not democracy in action. Secondly, why on earth still give us our pensioner bus pass if we too now have to pay? I have arthritis and could not possibly walk from Ware Street and back. If every other bus passenger is now travelling free, is this just a cynical ploy to get rid of bus passes for pensioners? My instinct tells me this is correct. Thirdly, have you ever actually travelled on the 501? Yes, it is often full with bus pass pensioners. But why? Are we just going into Maidstone to look at the architecture? No, we are going into town to shop and spend our pensions, thus supporting the town economy. On return journeys, almost every greyhead is carrying at least two large bags of shopping. Very few of us would then be able to carry these bags home. I certainly couldn t. So you have now put me between a rock and a hard place. Either I still use the park and ride and pay 2.50, even if only going into town for a few hours, or a visit to the optician etc (I have a very small pension and I cannot afford this charge) or I try to shop online, thus further damaging the already rather poor shopping choice. As to car-sharing, many already do this. Fourthly, often it is often very hard to find a parking space, especially since the park and ride at M20 junction seven was closed, so if you intend that people working in Maidstone to use this facility, and their cars are parked all day, this will make the lack of spaces even worse. I believe that those of us entitled to the senior bus pass ought not to be charged for parking, or it makes a complete nonsense of the whole structure. I am truly disgusted by this a ack on those least able to defend themselves. Jean Beaton, via 46 Maidstone May 2018

47 downsmail.co.uk Parking a risk to life THE parking situation on Ware Street in Bearsted to the west of the golf club entrance has become increasingly worse. This now often consists of several vehicles, creating a completely blind bend by blocking the view, and forcing cars in to the path of oncoming vehicles, and, less importantly, causing huge delays. I have witnessed two minor collisions, and narrowly avoided a head-on collision myself, purely because I was on a motorcycle. This has been going on since at least 2016, with a Facebook post by Bearsted Parish Council stating that they are looking at options. However, having checked the minutes of every meeting since January 2017, this issue has not been discussed once, giving way instead to seemingly more important items such as fireworks displays and market stalls. As concerned residents, we need to get this issue resolved, as someone is definitely going to get seriously hurt, or worse when the cars block the pavement (there isn't one on the opposite side). No-one seems to want to accept responsibility, with Bearsted Parish Council noting cost as a limiting factor. This is unacceptable when safety is the primary concern, with the danger easily removed by the application of lines. I would welcome your support in bringing this issue to the parish s a ention in the hope of ge ing it resolved, instead of waiting another two years with fingers crossed that no-one gets hurt. Ray Davies, via Mental health unit not risk HAVING read your recent front page article on the proposed new mental health unit to be built at the Kent Medical Campus, off Ware Street, I was astounded and dismayed by the reactionary comments made by some of your contributors to this piece. Anyone would think that a Ramptontype, secure mental hospital was being built in our midst, with no security in place, if the views aired by them are to be believed. The use of emotive language, such as lunatic asylum and the repetition of rumours that suggest that the criminally insane, paedophiles and rapists might be treated there is juxtaposed with the fact that two schools could be built on a nearby site. The implication is that pupils/school staff may be endangered because of their proximity to these perceived threats. All primary and special needs schools, as far as I am aware, are securely fenced and gated during working hours, so any intrusion or contact from outside would be very difficult and unlikely to go unnoticed. The jaundiced view that all those suffering from mental health problems should be isolated from the rest of the community is outdated and does not deserve repetition from those who, one would think, possess a more enlightened view of society. The provision of this facility for low-level mental health sufferers should be welcomed, not derided, as it will afford much-needed help for of patients who will benefit from community-based services. R J Mayes, Bearsted Horrified by language AFTER reading the article in this month s Downs Mail, felt I had no option but to reply. I am absolutely horrified to see that, in 2018, a hospital for mental health patients is described by Dennis Spooner as being a lunatic asylum. This terminology has no place in the modern world. Mental health patients have no choice but to live with their condition and, if they are lucky, receive treatment for it. Why is it a subject of debate what their conditions are and what may have led to their hospitalisation? This does not happen with any other illness. As a mental health professional who has also had experience of having a family member with a serious mental illness, I feel that it is a positive step to have a local facility where patients can be treated with compassion, empathy and the opportunity for them to lead a full and productive life. Perhaps Mr Spooner should visit a mental health unit and see the work that goes on to help patients do just that. Kim Terry, via Schools plan is flawed I NOTE the concern in your article about the KMC development in Bearsted Road. One of 10 objections is the siting of a mental home near proposed schools. Has nobody noticed the mental home in Vinters Road next to several schools? I am not aware of any problems. In any case, it could be argued that the school proposal is flawed, as the area is already overwhelmed with traffic. Two schools can only exacerbate the problem. Roy Martin, Maidstone Ignorance is staggering I AM writing about the front page article in your East edition for April. The level of ignorance shown by your correspondent and local community leaders quoted is quite staggering. I fear that you have all been reading far too many Batman comics. People with mental health difficulties are not the Joker. They deserve to be treated and cared for in as sensitive a manner as people with any other health complaint. I speak as somebody with a family member with severe difficulties with mental health. With support from local health services and her family, she has coped well, but has at times needed support in a residential se ing. Such se ings do not belong in isolated locations that are completely removed from the community and the support network of the patient. Out of sight, out of mind is not the answer for mental health patients, their loved ones or their communities. Furthermore, I would like to address the specific fears that you chose to whip up quite needlessly around the location of facilities near schools. Despite your research taking you to Sevenoaks for an example to support your editorial position, it didn t manage to help you find the facilities on Vinters Road, within yards of East Borough, Invicta Girls and Valley Park schools. Nor did it lead you to the Trevor Gibbons Unit, on the same site as a preschool facility at Maidstone Hospital. Rob Field, Maidstone Comment The five editions of the Downs Mail are delivered to 90% of households in the Maidstone and Malling area, reaching over 190, 000 readers every month. Maidstone North Maidstone South Maidstone East Maidstone Weald Malling Current and archived editions are also free to read online at Contact our teams. Editorial Editor: Simon Finlay Assistant Editor: Jon Phipps ext. 232 Sales Sales Manager: Bill Brett ext. 221 Advertising Sales Enquiry: option 1 Accounts Dept ext 229 Mail Publications Ltd Forge House Bearsted Green Business Park Bearsted, Maidstone ME14 4DT Maidstone May

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