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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone Town Edition May 2012 No.181 GPs fighting to keep control of their resources

by Dennis Fowle

DOCTORS and a patient group across Maidstone and Malling are holding urgent talks in a bid to re- tain influence over the allocation of local resources after it was an- nounced that Maidstone’s new commissioning group has been pressed to amalgamatewithWest Kent andWeald. This will mean just two group

GP members sitting on an en- larged board - covering surgeries in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, the Weald and parts

A SOLAR-powered commuter boat service could be serving Maidstone town centre from early summer. Entrepreneur James Bailey,

who runs The Barge floating restaurant, next to the Arch- bishop’s Palace, is at the heart of amajor investment scheme to revitalise theMedway and turn it into a focal point of the county town’s tourist economy. His other plans include hiring out rowing boats on the river. Three solar-powered electric catamarans are due for delivery at the end of May, which will convey commuters from Tovil to and from several stops in town – from Barker Road, Lock- meadow, and the Archbishop’s Palace, to Maidstone East rail- way station. Breakfast will be provided on

the boat, offering workers the chance to enjoy coffee and croissants on their way into work, avoiding traffic jams and hefty car parking charges. Outside peak times during the summer, the 12-seater boats

EIGHT out of 10 people are happy living in Maidstone bor- ough, but there is room for im- provement, according to a survey. Thirty per cent of respondents

of Maidstone -will have a say on how money is allocated in Maid- stone and Malling. The move has sparked anger

amid claims that the NHS's Strategic Health Authority (SHA) pressurised the doctors to make the decision. Maidstone group doctors were

well advanced in setting up their organisation, which included their ownpatient reference group. This group is so worried that it

will now talk to the Maidstone and Malling GPs about creating a new local health partnership so

the area continues to have a strong voice on Maidstone and Malling’s NHS needs and spend- ing a local budget of about £130m. NHS Kent and the West Kent

Group hope the patient group will continue and work with the combined organisation. The GPs themselves are trying

to negotiate "locality rights" within the enlarged West Kent Group. The Maidstone and Malling GP Clinical Commis- sioning Group had been developing well over the

P6 Catch solar boat to work

Mr Bailey, who is on the com- mittee of the new Maidstone Tourism Association and also the River Alliance, said: “Many people see the river as some- thing elitist. Our plan is to open it up to the masses. “Nobody has invested prop-

erly in the river for many years. It needs passion, creativity and drive to bring it back to life.” Boats will be available to hire

Businessman James Bailey

will be available for hire or for day trips to Tonbridge and back. Mr Bailey’s eco-friendly arm,

Green Leaf Leisure, already op- erates solar-powered boats on the river beside Tonbridge Castle and he has gained permission to run a “congestion club” service along the Medway in Maidstone. Travelling 41km for just 14p,

the craft are designed to glide silently along the river, offering commuters a cost-effective alter- native way of getting into work.

for30or60minutes andbecon- strained by the locks at Alling- ton and East Farleigh, although the company intends to “geo- fence” the area and fit tracking devices to its vessels. Mr Bailey said: “Maidstone

exists because of the river, but it is a greatly-overlooked amenity. All our staff are qualified life- savers and the more people par- ticipate in water-borne activity, the more conscious people be- come of the safety issues. “Something as simple as a

walk along the towpath will be- come more attractive if there is more activity in the area.” Long-term plans include

Happiness is ... clean streets and nice parks worse than the last survey – al- though the majority speak favourably of refuse collection. Some 1,700 people completed

were very satisfied with the area as a place to live, with55%fairly satisfied. This was 1% down on a similar survey in 2008/09. Lake Market Research carried

out the survey on behalf of Maid- stone Council, to assess key coun- cil services – doorstep recycling, refuse collection, Maidstone Leisure Centre, parks and open spaces and street cleanliness. Fewer than six in 10 residents are happy with street cleaning –

the survey across the borough – the majority being between the ages of 25 and 65. Street cleaning, road mainte-


nance and tackling crime are still priorities for most residents, fol- lowed by more refuse collections, better public transport and meas- ures to reduce traffic congestion. Dog fouling, improved parking

and more employment opportuni- ties also feature.

Museum extension THE new-look EastWing on Maid- stone Museum has been officially opened. For more information on the project, as well as other mu- seum news, see the council-spon- sored 12-page Borough Update in the central pages.

OAK TV UNIT £149! That’s just another bargain from us

Catholic school ‘struggling to

meet demand’ A ROMAN Catholic School in Maidstone has warned it may have to refuse entry to Catholic children due to new housing and an influx of foreign pupils. St Francis RC Primary School,

in Queens Road, is struggling to keep Year 1 and 2 groups (ages five to seven) within the legal limit of 30 children per class after a large increase in pupils. The school is seeking planning permission for two extra class- rooms and a bigger playground to cater for the rise in demand. Writing in support of the plan- ning application, building sur- veyor Peter Armory said one in three pupils was nowdesignated as having English as an Addi- tional Language (EAL). He added: “The trend is one

of increasing popularity and this will be enhanced as a re- sult of planned new housing and the change in the school’s demography. “These will significantly in- crease, not only in reception classes, but also further up the school. The school is nearly in the position in some year groups where it will have to refuse entry even to Catholic children. “We have had some children

leave the school recently inYear 2, which has alleviated the prob- lems to some extent for this year, but next year we will have real problems to keep numbers within the legal limit.” An Ofsted report on the school, following an inspection in September 2010, noted a high number of EAL pupils among the 370 on the roll, but added that only a few were at the early stages of learning to speak English. The main home languages of these pupils were Tagalog, Polish and Portuguese. The proposed modular two- classroom building would go next to an existing classroom extension. Should KCC grant planning permission, it would mean an- other 69 pupils and jobs for three more members of staff. No additional parking is proposed.

Toilet adverts could net council £12KP12

Olympic countdown burns brighter P15

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

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