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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone Town Edition July 2012 No.183 Town ‘jewels’ may be sold

THE original home of Maid- stoneMuseum could be sold off to raise cash for capital projects. Chillington House, in St

Faiths Street, was built in 1562 for the local MP. It later became a science and art school before opening as a museum. In recent years, it has been

used by KCC’s adult education service but is currently empty. Selling off the building is just one of a number of fundraising options being considered in the council’s asset management plan for the next three years. Other ideas include letting

out the entrance foyer of the Town Hall, renting out the va- cant first floor of Maidstone House, home to the Maidstone Gateway, and transferring com-

munity centres such as Beech- wood Hall and Fant Hall to local community groups. Some of the suggestions have caused outrage among the coun- cil’s opposition LibDem group, who described them as “selling off the family jewels”. They also believe the ruling Tories are pushing forward plans without giving them sufficient thought. However, council leader Chris Garland said: “We are living in a completely different local gov- ernment financial situation.We have to look at all angles to maximise our asset revenue.” The council’s assets areworth £79.9m and include both free- hold and leasehold properties. However, their value is falling in line with property prices.

AMAIDSTONE childminder has been rated outstand- ing just six months after she started her business. Jenny Matthews(24) started up JenniWren’sChild-

care in October last year. But the government’s education watchdog has

given her the highest grade in the very first inspec- tion at herAlbanyStreethome. Jenny said: “Once you have registeredwith Ofsted they come out within the first six months for an initial assessment. I had read awful things about this, with some inspectors saying they don’tgiveanoutstanding rating on the first visit. “But thewomanwhovisitedmesaid shehadto give

methe top mark because I deserved it. I did 10 times more than I needed tomeet their expectations.” Ofsted inspector Beryl Witheridge paid glowing ref- erence to Jenny’s “in-depth knowledge of each child and their unique needs”, adding that this “is used to promote their learning andwelfare exceptionally”. “The exciting and highly-stimulating activities

THE compensation culture has forced the cancellation of a pop- ular football festival for the first time in 18 years. The PenendenHeath Festival, founded by Maidstone Borough Council in 1994, has attracted teams from all over Kent. More than 40 teams of young-

sters, with their families and friends, piled into Penenden

planned encourage children to explore, investigate and make excellent progress in all areas of learning. Their independence skills are generally developing verywell.” Jenny,who cooks children meals and reg- ularly takes themonday trips,wasalso lauded forher “exemplary relationships”with parents.

Red tape scuppers football day

Heath for a day of football fun, supplemented with a travelling fairground and stalls. Now, for the first time, Bearsted Football Club, which took over the festival 15 years ago, has been forced to pull theplug, because of problems meeting health and safety requirements. Club general secretary Roy Benton, from Snodland, said:

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First class care at home

“Bearsted Football Club has worked diligently over the years to provide a fun day out for friends, family and the local community, but sadly the club hasn’t sufficient officers to fulfil new criteria set by the council.” Mr Benton said the club had

been granted a certain amount of leeway in recent years with regard to parking, but the coun- cil’s insistence on parking re- strictions on the heath and the approach roads this year were impossible to implement. He said: “These are public highways and some of them do not have yellow lines. The num- ber of marshalls we would need to engage would be prohibitive, even if we asked people to

P3 The decline in capital values

has coincided with an ambi- tious programme of flagship capital projects, including im- provements to Maidstone High Street, the development of the Maidstone Museum East Wing and improvements to Mote Park, which have attracted ex- ternal investment of around £4.5m. The current capital pro- gramme includes provision for borrowing, but the council is still debt free. LibDem leader Cllr Fran Wil-

son said: “We need to be taking a more rounded view of how to raise capital and how to make our buildings work for us. We should not simply be selling off buildings to raise funds if

New childminder Jenny is already outstanding

Is Carriage Museum on

the move? MAIDSTONE’s historic Carriage Museum could bemoving. The council is looking at the possibility of moving the col- lection of carriages, currently housed in the former Arch- bishop’s Stables in Mill Street, to a purpose-built location. There is a suggestion that consultants could be hired to look at moving the vehicles, many of which were in the pri- vate collection of former town mayor Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt- Drake, at Cobtree Manor. One idea is that heritage mu-


seum Kent Life could “adopt” the carriages, thereby returning them to Cobtree. If a case can be proved for re- locating the museum, the coun- cil believes it may be able to secure Heritage Lottery Fund- ing to help finance a new build- ing, with match-funding provided by an interested third party, who would also fund up to half the estimated £10,000 cost of the feasibility study. The council hopes to have

the new museum up and run- ning by early 2015, after which the historic stables building could be sold or used for other income-generating purposes. Running costs of the museum are about £16,820 a year. The opposition LibDems be-


lieve a decision has been made without full consent of the council. Group leader Cllr Fran Wilson said: “Nothing has come before the general coun- cil for discussion. Decisions are beingmadewithout recourse to the council. This is typical of the ruling administration’s gung ho approach. “Buildings should not be sold

off without due consideration. We have to think of our her- itage.”

Council leader Chris Garland responded: “We are doing the best for Maidstone, putting us at the top of the league in Kent and the South East. If that is being ‘gung ho’, it is producing results and I amhappy with that. I pre- fer to call it a bold approach.”

Jubilee marks boat service launch P4

Lower High Street scheme backed P6

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