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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone East Edition May 2012 No.181


Royal couple to open orchard


BOXLEY Parish Council is preparing to host a royal visit to celebrate the Queen’s Dia- mond Jubilee. The Earl and Countess ofWessex will be visiting Grove Green on Thursday, May 31, to perform the official opening of the com- munity orchard at Penhurst Close. The orchard, which includes apple, dam-


son and nut trees, as well as a refurbished play area,was created tomarkthe royal an- niversary. Boxley Parish Council’s sponsored page is on page 16


Catch solar boat to work


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


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.


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


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


Businessman James Bailey


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


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


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


GPs battling to keep control of their resources by Dennis Fowle


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


P6


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 try-


ing to negotiate “locality rights” within the enlarged West Kent Group. The Maid- stone and Malling GP Clinical Commissioning Group had been developing well over the


P6


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


Fury as schools


turn locals away HIGH demand for primary school places in the Bearsted area has resulted in more than 50 families failing to secure any of their three choices. Parents who opted for over- subscribed schools near their homes have instead been of- fered places at St Paul’s Infant School, Penenden Heath. St John’s Church of England school at ProvenderWay, Grove Green, had just 30 available places, but received 41 first- choice applications, with the same number as second prefer- ence and 77 as third. Madginford Park infants, in Merton Road, received 135 first choice applications for its 90 seats, with 114 as second choice and 59 as third. The school had the second highest number of applications in the county. Thurnham CE Infant school,


at The Landway, Bearsted, also had 90 places, for which there were 115 first choice applica- tions, 96 as second choice and 37 as third. At Madginford, 25 families


were turned away, with nine losing out at St John’s and 17 missing a place at Thurnham. As the Downs Mail went to


press it was not known how many appeals had been received by the April 19 deadline. One Grove Green mum said:


“A large group of us are ex- tremely frustrated and


P4 Girl, 10, fights


to improve park A TEN-YEAR-OLD girl from Downswood is refusing to give up on her campaign to improve the Foxden Drive play park. A year after Sophie Lawrie submitted a 50-name petition to Maidstone Council about the poor state of equipment, she has written to the council. She wrote: “Please could you


letmeknowwhenwecan be proud of our park again.” The council says improving


other play areas takes higher priority at present.


Full story –P9


Toilet adverts could net council £12KP20


Olympic countdown burns brighter P28


The Big Yellow Building, St Peters St, Maidstone 0800 652 0102 www.lincolnfurniture.co.uk


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