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Preserve this natural space Dear Sir – Banky Meadow is one of the last untouched areas left in Bearsted, providing a natural environment for wild life, birds, foxes, badgers, moles and an abundance of insect life, including butterflies and bees. It also provides a safe natural playground

for children to exercise and develop their outdoor adventurous skills, such as making camps, climbing trees, and collecting spec- imens, and for dogwalkers to get away from the roads and traffic. With an overload of rural urbanisation al-

ready in place and in the pipeline, please leave this area wild, ensuring that Bell Lane leading to HampsonWay is kept maintained to facilitate easy access to this natural space. Peter Martin, HampsonWay

Get tough on dogs’ mess Dear Sir – I would like to thank the parish council for their outstanding efforts in tack- ling the dogmess problem in the alleyways and footpaths around Birling Avenue and Mynn Crescent. You have totally excelled yourselves this

time – the two tiny new signs have really worked. I spotted 19 separate piles of mess in a four-minute walk to the school. If I was to empty my bowels every night

outside a councillor’s house, on their path or at a council meeting, how long would it be before it became a serious problem? Two or three days before something was done? If you drop a cigarette in Maidstone, you

get a £70 fine, but if you let your dog mess every night in the alleyways in Bearsted, nothing is done. The council does not even bother sending their community police to catch these people – out of sight, out of mind. We don’t even see the alleyways being cleaned. For eight days, two bags of mess have been sitting there and we will proba- bly end up celebrating their first birthday before they are removed. Is it now acceptable to have to sit in a

class room with dog mess on your shoes or trousers, or have to clean the wheels of the pram every time you take it along the streets of Bearsted? Is this really the image of a vil- lage in Kent we want? If there was an award for the most dog mess-ridden streets, Bearsted would win it. Shall I shovel up the dog mess and bring

it to the next council meeting for inspec- tion?

Install some small CCTV cameras, catch

one person and fine them properly. In the meantime, until the wheels have turned and people have put their hands up, would it be possible for the council to get the streets and alleyways cleaned? These people should be named and shamed andmade to do community service cleaning up the streets. I would like to thank the dog owners who do clear up – thosewho have bags on their leads and take it home.Well done for setting an example. The ball is in your court, Bearsted Coun-

cil – it’s time to do something. Gary Seaward, Birling Avenue, Bearsted.

Village getting a poor deal Dear Sir – Poor Thurnham. What a raw deal it is getting. First the church, now the school (Downs Mail, December 2012). There is a real sense of injustice here. This

is a Church of England school, originally built on loan and with funding from Thurn- ham people and the diocese, specifically for the education of Thurnham children, pre- sumably in perpetuity.

52 East

You can write to us at: Downs Mail, 2 Forge House, Bearsted Green Business Park, Bearsted, Maidstone, ME14 4DT or e-mail:

Now its school governors have proposed a

new admissions policy that would seem- ingly exclude children from Thurnham, ef- fectively “poaching and encroaching” to benefit Bearsted. This is a pattern we are all too familiar

with at Thurnham church. For years it has been a source of con- tention that no connections have been al- lowed between Thurnham Cof E School and its mother church, StMary’s. Despite repeated efforts by church mem-

bers to restore links, parents and children here have been redirected to Bearsted’s church instead, thereby denying St Mary’s a steady stream of families to aid its con- gregation. For too long, there have been no Thurn-

ham people as school governors to repre- sent its school. APreece, worshipper, Thurnham Church

No ‘kindness’ over sick pay Dear Sir – I must dispute Mail Marks (Feb- ruary) that “kindness” is significant in the wayMaidstone andWeald MP Helen Grant handles the sick pay issue inmy contract of employment as her constituency and par- liamentary assistant. Until now, I have not responded publicly,

but now feel I must to Dennis Fowle’s arti- cle headlined: ‘My belief in Helen stands firm’. It is also statedMrs Grant extended “an el-

ement of “kindness” when she offered me work. This is not true. Following a chance meeting in 2010, she offered to provide me with a reference. Her husband Simon Grant requested my CV. He later phoned saying: “You are just the per- son we are looking for. Would you like to work for Helen?” It was a business decision. My permanent contract of employment

stated I was entitled to two weeks’ sick pay. After a heart attack I needed medical tests, and as a part-timer these were on my day off. Mr Grant wrote to indicate Iwas not entitled to sick pay. I responded that my contract stated I was entitled to two weeks’ sick pay. He later acknowledged this and apologised. When I needed an operation I contacted

the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) about sick pay entitle- ment. It became clear that the standard em- ployment contract had been significantly changed to my detriment. IPSA orderedMrs Grant to issue a correct contract – with 26 weeks’ sick leave on full pay, followed by 26 weeks on half pay. Of three permanent staff employed by Mrs

Grant, her husband was her senior advisor. His contract was the only one not detri- mentally changed. He subsequently said this was “an unfortunate oversight” and re- signed his employment. Sadly Dennis Fowle was misinformed. TonyWilliams,Maidstone.

Centre a lifeline for elderly Dear Sir – I read with interest the amazing amount of services Age UK (formerly Age Concern Maidstone) now offers. I only became aware of the Goodman Cen-

tre when I needed to use their befriending service for my mum, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. Then, she just needed a bit of extra company to pop in during the week. As her condition worsened and she seemed so down when family weren’t visit- ing, we tried the Goodman Centre. This en- sured that twice per week,Mumgoes to her club, where the atmosphere is like a house

party. I would liken it to a fun trip down memory lane. They sing, have lunch, do song bingo and more and the change in mum on these days is amazing. The KCC used to support families finan-

cially who appreciate what an outing does for our relatives. I have no idea why policy changes have

now stopped financial help, but it’s worth every penny out of my pocket to know my mum has two days with a group of people who might not remember much day to day, but have a laugh for at least six hours. It’s priceless, and the star of the Goodman Centre is the manager Louise. Thanks Age UK!

The centre is a hidden treasure – passing

this on just may relieve someone to know their loved one can enjoy a brilliant day out where they aren’t treated as people to ig- nore.

Julie Anderson

Parish opposed to J8 plan Dear Sir – I’m writing about the proposed warehousing and office development at Junction 8 of the M20 (Downs Mail East, February 2013). Mr Yandle, of the Gallagher Group, is en-

titled to his thoughts about the 42 acres of warehousing and offices that his company wishes to build at junction 8, but there are powerful planning objections to such de- velopment and it is strongly opposed by local people and by all local politicians, from the parish councils to our MP, Hugh Robertson. The land is within attractive and unspoilt countryside – a key consideration in the Gov- ernment’s decision on KIG just two years ago – and in a totally unsustainable rural location more than two miles from Maidstone. Mr Yandle appears to realise this by claiming that the proposed development – to be called Waterside Park – would be screened by trees to the south, east andwest in an attempt to convince us that we just won’t see it once it’s there. But we will know it’s there, because peo-

plewill suffermassively increased traffic on nearby roads and, as he confirms, the offices will be seen. Mr Yandle claimsWaterside Park will not

be able to grow into a KIG-type develop- ment because it is surrounded by physical boundaries, but we all know that other de- velopers are still interested in the KIG site and other land around junction 8. IfWater- side Park is permitted, it is inevitable that they, too, will seek to develop their land. KIG was emphatically rejected by the Government for the sound planning reasons that the site was within open, attractive and unspoilt countryside essential to the rural setting of Bearsted and the Kent Downs AONB. A 42-acre warehousing and office devel- opment within this unspoilt countryside will severely damage its landscape value and compromise its continued protection. IfWaterside Park is permitted, it will open

up the floodgates for other developers to submit further planning applications for yet morewarehousing and office developments on other land around junction 8 and on the KIG site. Bearsted Parish Council remains res- olutely opposed to any development at junction 8 and is confident that proposals like Waterside Park will, like KIG, be op- posed by local people and organisations with a most formidable resolve. Denis Spooner, vice chairman, Bearsted Parish Council

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