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HOUSEHOLDSinTonbridge andMalling face paying an extra 10p a week for local services after borough councillors decided against freezing council tax, despite the offer of a gov- ernment grant. The council’s Cabinet says the increase for 2012/13 is “minimal”, but will enable key services to be maintained at their existing stan- dard in the coming year. The figures will mean a 2.9% rise inthe bor-

ough’s element of the council tax, resulting in an increase of £4.99 a year for a band D prop- erty, equating to less than 10p a week. The bandDcharge is currently £171.91, and

if the new rate is approved, it will be £176.90. The borough would have received £213,000 compensation from the Government if it had frozen the rate for the forthcoming year. But the council’s finance chiefs warned that this one year could not be taken in isolation and accepting the grant would result in more budget challenges in years to follow. In the last two years.Tonbridge and Malling

has suffered a 28% cut in government grants, equating to £2 million in real terms. Council leader MarkWorrall said; “We un- derstand and accept the 28%cut over the last two years and entirely support the govern- ment’s deficit reduction programme.We have always sought to maximise efficiency and quality in services. “We are, and always have been, ‘lean and

keen’ with 20% fewer staff than equivalent councils in the county and a long-term repu- tation for low tax increases. “Wedonot understand or accept the current formula through which the Government val- ues our residents at £35.49 per head as fair or reasonablewhenthe average for shire districts is £51.71. “Our residents deserve to be treated more equitably inthe government grant they receive towards their services.” The council will formally consider the 2012/13 budget on February 23.

Malling Edition February 2012 No. 178 Council tax rise for key services

Donna Rouse (left) with two- year-old son Owen, and some of the igloo builders display their handiwork

Insurance blow for flood

risk homes HUNDREDS of homes in low- lying areas around Aylesford could become uninsurable next year because they are liable to flood.

Many homeowners already struggle to get insurance cover when they admit to being within the Environment Agency’s risk area for flooding – even though the government has an agreement with the in- surance industry that it will guarantee cover for homes in the event of a flood. The agreement comes to an

Snow place like an ice home UNUSUALproperty at prestige location, attractive open space design, andwell worth viewing – quickly! This ultra-cool des reswas built by families in a Kings

Hill road after a five-inch snowfall turned the area into a winter wonderland. Neighbours in Victory Drive triumphed over the big

chill, completing a 10ft high igloo in five and a half hours. The ice-house was the idea of mum-of two Donna Rouse, who remembers a similar fun project when she was a child. “I have always loved this picture ofmeandmy brother

and our dog with this ice-house, and when I saw the snow I said: ‘We have to do that’. Everyone came out to join in and we all had a great time.” With the help of neighbouring parents, children and Donna’s three-year-old St Bernard dog, Cookie, building began at2pmand the roofwent on at 7.30 that evening.” “People were bringing out coffees for everyone all day

andwe all had a lot of fun. There was a real community spirit,” said Donna.

A SECOND phase of roadworks could cause even more chaos than the looming road closure to replace gas mains in the centre of Maidstone, it is feared. In April, Southern Gas Networks will close Knightrider Street for three months as phase one of the project to replace gas mains in Upper and Lower Stone Street. KCC has already earmarked potential problems as far away as the M2. KCC member Cllr Malcolm Robertson fears it is

Congestion fears over gas works phase two Even during the first phase, it is anticipated that

traffic in the townwill need to reduce by 10-15% if the centre is not to gridlock. Southern Gas expects traffic to reduce naturally as drivers try to find other routes out of town to the south on the periphery – such as Farleigh Bridge andWillington Street. In the first phase of work, Knightrider Street will

the second phase of work – involving the staged clo- sure of 100m sections of one lane in Upper Stone Street for the following nine months – that will see most disruption and road rage. It is then that the busy exodus of town centre traffic will be funnelled into a bottleneck as it leaves the town to the south. Hesaid: “We anticipate the first couple of weeks to

be chaos, but motorists will gradually steer away from the centre andgo in search of alternative routes. “The constriction of Upper Stone Street will be the

worst and last for up to another year. Traffic will be ricocheting around the town trying to get out.”

be completely closed to traffic for threemonths from April, along with the right filter lane, which leads to Knightrider Street from Lower Stone Street. Through traffic will be diverted via the A229 South, along Upper Stone Street (A229 North), Sheals Crescent, Postley Road,Hayle Road and Col- lege Road. Access to Priory Road and Knightrider Street will be viaBrunswick Street and Priory Road. Knightrider Street will be made two-way for access- only traffic. KCC’snewhighways management centre will con-

trol traffic flows into the town at the Wheatsheaf and South Park Drive to try to minimise congestion. Town gears up for gas works - page six


end next year, however, and homeowners now fear they could be left high and dry – and with homes they are unable to sell.

The Government’s ‘Statement

of Principles’ agreement with the insurance industry, which states that insurers will provide insurance for ‘at risk’ homes, comes to an end in June 2013. This couldmake obtaining af- fordable flood insurance ex- tremely difficult, if not impossible. And, without in- surance, borrowers will be in breach of their mortgage con- tract. The move will almost


own alk Florist to close

Town Talk

SNODLAND’s longest-serving shop, Estelle’s Florist, has closed, but the 87-year-old owners will carry on working. For full details, see Town Talk in the central pages of this month’s Downs Mail. The bi- monthly independent magazine is written by and dedicated to Snodland and Halling residents.

Sponsor a rosette for Hadlow Tower

Clampdown on 4x4 YouTube yobs


Metal thieves jailed for three years P8


New FremlinWalk scheme unveiledP16

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

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