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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone Town Edition June 2011 No.170 Royal Mail sorry for postal woe


ROYALMail has apologised to Maidstone res- idents for a poor service that has left some without any letters for days. Several members of the public have told Downs Mail that they are not receiving their mail six days a week – in breach of Royal Mail’s terms of licence. The organisation isun- dergoing a restructure of its service to cope with the trend away from letters and towards packages, starting firstly in the ME15 area. The changes were due to cover ME14 and ME16but have been delayed, it is thought, be-


cause of difficulties adapting to the new sys- tem. Postmen even made deliveries to the Barming area ona Sunday to clear a backlog of letters and parcels clogging up theMaidstone sorting office. Tovil Parish Council is pursuing the matter


after onemember–aformer employee at RoyalMail – called on the matter to be referred to a regulator if the situationdoesnot improve. ARoyal Mail spokesman said: “We are un- dertaking a major change to the way inwhich we handlemail in parts of Maidstone.We ac-


OakenWood fight goes on


OPPONENTS of plans to extend a quarry near Barming vowed to continue their fight after county councillors backed the scheme. KCC's planning committee approved Gal-


lagher AggregatesLtd's proposal to extend Her- mitage Quarry,Aylesford, intoOakenWood. This was despite objections from hundreds


of residents affected by the blasting operations; the two neighbouring borough councils and three parish councils - Barming, Ditton plus East Malling and Larkfield. Their main con- cern is loss of "irreplaceable" ancient wood- land.


KentWildlifeTrust, Natural England and the


Woodland Trust also oppose the plan. But after a two-hour debate, county council-


lors decided by 10-6 votes to support an offi- cer's recommendation for approval, on the basis of need. Gallagher's reserves at the exist- ingHermitage site run out in four years and the company wants to extract a further16mtonnes of ragstone from 33 hectares (78 acres) of Oaken Wood over the next 25 years, in 15


phases. Gallagher says the decision will protect the


jobs of 300 people. That, however, is not the end of the matter.


As the quarrying extension is a departure from the county'sminerals plan it needs the


P6


THE change to fort- nightly rubbish col- lections has been blamed for causing se- vere road congestion outside Tovil tip - and there is a groundswell of support to establish another facility to ease the burden. ThesiteinBurial


Ground Lane is Maidstone's only recycling centre and, according to Tovil Parish Council, long-standing traffic concerns have intensi- fied since Maidstone Council introduced fortnightly collections in February. In recent weeks, vehicles have been queuing up from the tip onto Farleigh Hill, causing gridlock to the local roads. Queues on the main road have formed as early as 7.15am on some weekdays. Parish and Borough Cllr Derek Mortimer said: "Because of fort- nightly collections, rubbish has got so bad that people are having to dump it at the tip." The new system sees recyclable food waste taken away every


week, with regular domestic rubbish rotating with cardboard recy- cling collections every other week. Borough Cllr and KCC


P6


Lib Dems suffer in local elections


P26


New medical centre plans unveiled


Thinking furniture? P35


The Big Yellow Building, St Peters St, Maidstone 0800 652 0102


www.lincolnfurniture.co.uk


cept that we have not got everything right.We areworking to resolve the issues as amatter of priority.We apologise to customers for any in- convenience caused.” The spokesman added that it has had to un-


dergo a modernisation programme to deal with the 16 million fewer letters posted every day compared with five years ago: “The changes will also result in a number of other benefits - aswe deliver fewer letters but more packets and parcels than we did in the past. “The switch to vans and trolleyswillP10


Boiler work closes


Hazlitt for month MAIDSTONE'S Hazlitt Arts Centre will be shut for a month in summer for essential work on the heating and electrical systems. The borough council owners fear the heating may break down this winter. One of the four boilers has already failed and the pipework and radiators are more than 30 years old. A report to cabinet said when the system


was flushed out last summer it exposed weaknesses in the pipework, causing leaks in some areas."It is therefore considered expedient to replace the elderly pipework and radiators at the same time as the boiler plant to ensuremaximum efficiency of the new system," the report added. The plan is to close the Hazlitt Theatre


and Exchange Studio, which contribute over £2m a year to the local economy, from mid-August to mid-September. The cabinet agreed to fund the project from balances as the work was unbudgeted.


Calls for new tip as traffic grows First ‘hotel school’


DOZENS of young people are set for the chance of high-class train- ing in the hospitality industry, writes Peter Erlam. For Maidstone is about to get


the UK's first training hotel under plans to revamp the KCC-owned Oakwood House. The grand Victorian house, now


a conference and events centre, could become a "beacon of hope for many young people". Oakwood House would be transformed into a unique 4-star ‘hotel school’, offering vocational training and apprenticeships. Full story - page 9


Mote sale rumpus TWO Mote Park properties aretobesoldbyauction - but some councillors are not happy about it. Maidstone Council bought


the park and its dwellings - including Raigersfeld House and Raigersfeld Lodge - from the Earl of Romney for £50,000 in 1929. The council has now de-


cided to sell the two vacant, vandalised houses but Inde- pendent and Lib Dem mem- bers are concerned about park access issues. Full story - page 16


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