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New rules a blow to housing applicants


DEPENDENT children under the age of 21, irrespective of gender, will be expected to share a bedroom under Maidstone Council’s proposed new housing allocation scheme. To make the best use of its housing stock


and to give applicants a better chance of get- ting a house, the council is tightening up on its allocation criteria from April next year. Priority will be given to individuals and families who live and work in the borough and who make a positive contribution to the community – not to families on benefits. Because of the limited number of larger homes, children up to 21 who are still living with their parents will be expected to share a bedroom. Maidstone’s head of housing and commu-


nity services, John Littlemore, said: “There is an extremely limited supply of social housing inMaidstone, and this policy is de-


signed to work with housing providers to make best use of the stock available.” In replacing the points system with five


bands of “need” the council is proposing to award additional priority to applicants in employment or who assist their local com- munity in other ways, such as serving in the armed forces and doing charitable work. Applicants will need to meet two main criteria – they must have a local connection and a housing need. Anyone who has an income over £60,000


or savings of more than £30,000 will auto- matically be rejected. Housing need will include overcrowding, substandard housing and housing that is unsuitable on medical or welfare grounds while in cases of acute need, such as home- lessness, the council will prioritise the need for accommodation.


“The allocation scheme has been de- signed to ensure that access to subsidised housing supports the corporate aims of the council, as well as reflects the current leg- islation,” said Mr Littlemore. “The changes have been suggested to en-


sure those on the register have a realistic chance of being housed.” The proposed bandswill encompass com- munity contribution, homelessness and pre- vention, housing need,medical andwelfare grounds and transfer requests. The length of time an applicant has been


on the waiting list will also be taken into ac- count and an applicant who refuses a suitable property will go to the bottom of the list. A full copy of the draft allocation scheme


is available by emailing Housingop- tions@maidstone.gov.uk or calling 01622 602440.


Villagers protest over store plan


UPTO150people attendedapub- lic meeting at Lenham Commu- nity Centre to discuss Co-op’s proposal for a store in the village. As reported in Downs Mail, the company wants to set up a shop on the site of the former Lenham Ironmongers in Faversham Road, which has been empty since an arson attack over two years ago. Over 1,000 people signed a peti- tion opposing the scheme. The meeting, chaired by Kent Association of Local Councils chairman Geraldine Brown, heard speeches fromarepresentativeof Southern Co-operative,aplanning consultant on behalf of landlord Ramac and those for and against the scheme.


Co-op THE company said the decision to press ahead with a store in Lenhamfollowedmarket research involving 375 interviews with adults living within a mile of the site.  98% of respondents did their main food shop away fromthe vil- lage or online. 18%bought online,which is four times the national average.  Less than 50% of residents use village shops for top-up shopping. However, Philip Ponsonby, chief operating officer for retail, said: “Those that are loyal to the village shops rate them very highly.” Hedenied claims thatacontract


between Ramac and Co-op had been agreed covertly. He said: “One of my colleagues


wasdriving through the village and saw a ‘For Sale’ board. We were aware Budgens were interested and decided to take up the oppor- tunity.” There was dismay at the an- nouncement that goods would be deliveredoutside the shopinFaver- shamRoad, rather than elsewhere on the site. Ramac THE main derision among protes- tors was directed towards Ramac for selling the site to Co-op without offering it to local residents and businesses, who say they had a


16 East


Residents have their say


For


There was standing room only at Lenham Community Centre for the public meeting to discuss plans for a Co-op store in the village


consortium ready to re-instate Lenham Ironmongers on the site. There was also anger at the land-


lords for not attending, and only being represented by Barton Will- more employee Simon Flisher, a planning consultant whose knowl- edgewas limited totechnical issues. Mr Flisher said Co-op would be


one of the tenants in a mixed use schemethatwould includeatotal of six apartments, located above the shop and to the rear, and another commercial unit tothe rear. Thisunit would be available to the openmar- ket. Lenham Ironmongers PRIOR to the fire that ravaged the premises inOctober 2010, the shop had been based in FavershamRoad since 1954. Ramac has still not


told Dave Silvey (left), whotookoverthe business in 2000, whether his lease will be terminated. He


said: “My last conversation with Ramac was over 18 months ago to inquirewhether I could re-open short term on a site over the other side of the road. They said no and that was that.


“They are talking about setting up


a newbusiness [Co-op] inmy prem- ises but Ramac have not had the courtesy to even tell me about it. They are picking onmy bones but I amnot dead yet. “I am out of work,withafamily and children to bring up.”


Dance students make their feelings known


GDC School of Dancing LANDLORDRamachas told theGDC School ofDancing, based in a class- room behind the former ironmon- gers, that its lease will not be renewed when it runs out in the summer. GDC, run by principal Karen Day, opened11years ago and has about 70 pupils, ranging from three-year- olds to adults. Although there may be an option


to move into another commercial unit on a redeveloped site, Karen says this would be impractical be- cause residents of the new apart- ments would likely object to having dance events in the evenings. She said: “We transformed an old


garage into a dance studio, which I am proud of. A lot of people come here from outside Lenham and use the village shops. “In October we were told by Ramacthat theywere going to build homeswhereweareatpresent. This is devastating for us as we have nowhere to go.Whatis going to hap- pen to us?”


Visit Downs Mail’s website — downsmail.co.uk


A RESIDENT for over 40 years spoke in favour of the Co-op scheme. He argued: The shopwould look better than the current derelict site.  There hadbeenanincreasein supermarket delivery vehicles dur- ing the past year.  Tesco puts on a free bus every week for Lenham residents to shop at Lunsford Park, showing there is a demand not being met in the village. Hesaid: “It is a good idea. I can’t


afford to shop locally and the local shops do not stock all the items I want, which means we have to bulk buy elsewhere.”


Against


TOWN crier Gez Clark spoke on behalf of the petitioners, who claim the schemewilldamagethe village’s viability by killing off exist- ing businesses.


He said: “If Ramac wanted to redevelop the site they should have firstly contacted Dave


Silvey


[LenhamIronmon- gers owner] and secondly put a


sign saying the site was open for redevelopment. There are people in this village who would have been able to redevelop it in line with what the villagewants. “The anti group is desperate for Lenhamtoretain its independence and having aCo-opwould not help that. This could lead tothe closures of the newsagent, greengrocers and possibly the butchers. “The prospect ofLenhamhaving


abeautiful medieval village square with empty shops fills me with dread. No matter how far they have gone down the planning route, we will carry on fighting. Even if the store opens I will stillbe fighting on.”


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