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Maidstone Town Edition July 2013 No.195 Next wins out-of-town store battle

NEXT’s proposal for a large out- of-town superstore near M20 Junction 7 has been given the go-ahead – despite claims it would badly harm the appeal of Maidstone town centre. The retailer’s plan to open a

Next Home store at Eclipse Park divided Maidstone Council’s planning committee, whose vote was split along party lines. Six Conservatives voted in favour, with five Lib Dems as well as Independent Daniel Mo- riarty voting against. But the casting vote by com- mittee chairman Cllr Richard Lusty, a Conservative, pushed the scheme through. Planning officers had urged members to reject the planning application

PRE-school children at Little Learners Nursery, in Boughton Lane, Maidstone felt the longarm of the law when they had a visit from Sgt Tim Price ofKentPolice.

The childrenhavebeen learning

about the emergency services and Sgt Price explained to the children, aged between three and four, what support and services the police provide.

He showed the children exam-

ples of different types of uniform the police wear, including riot gear,andthechildrengot to tryon some items of uniform, including headgear and gloves.

They also got to go inside his

police car, hear the siren and talk through the car’s loud speakers.

come to town MORRISONS has admitted that it wants to open a store in Maidstone town centre. The supermarket chain has

been given planning permis- sion to move into the former Army and Navy store at 69-77 Week Street. Earlier this year it was given licensing consent to sell alcohol. TheMLocal store would cre-

ate 20 jobs. Laura Stubbs from Morrisons

said:“We’re in the early stages of discussion about bringing a Mor- risonsMlocal to Maidstone.We look forward to sharing our plans with the community, should things progress.”

Morrisons may Firms back J8 scheme

TWO international companies are backing a bid to develop a controversial business park close to J8 of theM20. Automotive Distributors Ltd

(ADL) and Scarab Sweepers Ltd, both based in Pattenden Lane, Marden, have announced they are prepared to invest in Waterside Park, the working title applied to a 38-acre site owned by the Gallagher Group, to the south of the A20. The site is one of three the council has earmarked as po- tentially suited to economic de- velopment – although concern is growing about further indus- trial and warehousing activity in Maidstone’s rural hinterland.

The two companies are spread across five sites in Mar- den, and say the companies’ vi- ability and the future of up to 600 jobs could be at stake with- out a move to a more stream- lined location. Gallaghers is expected to sub-

mit a planning application to the council in the near future, despite concerns the site could have an adverse impact on the environment and the River Len. Gallaghers claims the devel- opment area is of low ecological interest and a “cut and fill” process would ensure any de- velopment would be screened, but there is a mass of local op- position to the idea from

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to site the £9m home and fash- ion outlet on land adjoining the Hilton Hotel, in Bearsted Road, due to the adverse effect it would have on town centre businesses. The council’s retail analyst,

DTZ, had forecast that the 5,748sqm store would reduce trade in the town centre by 2.13%, but the applicants claimed the negative effect would amount to 1.37%. Officers came up with alter- native sites, including the for- mer Royal Mail sorting office near Maidstone East railway station, the former Somerfield store in King Street and the ex TJ Hughes unit in The Mall – but Next regional estates man-

ager Iain Allsop claimed these were not viable. “It is a case of Eclipse Park or nowhere,” he said, explaining that there would be only 20Next Home superstores throughout the country, and Maidstone’s would be the sole one in Kent. Eclipse Park, owned by Gal- lagher Properties, was previ- ously an area designated for business and office use and it was predicted that the Next store could encourage other re- tailers to move there. With nearby Newnham Court ear- marked for retail expansion in the borough council’s emerging Core Strategy, there were con- cerns about the cumulative ef- fect on town centre businesses.

’Ello ’ello ’ello ... what have we here?

But council leader, Cllr Chris Garland, who sat in on the item as a substitute committeemem- ber – he left the chamber as soon as it had been determined so did not vote on anything else inapackedagenda–was in favour of the scheme. He said: “The council’s com- mitment to the town centre is there for all to see, with the best part of a £4m investment in re- cent years. I am keen to go for approval on this one. “If the application is refused

Next will walk away and end up somewhere else in Kent. This will send out the wrong message and also damage us economically. “There is an events

River festival appeal for


cash pays off MAIDSTONE’s popular river festival will go ahead this year, after an appeal for funding paid dividends. The future of the festival

hung in the balance when sponsorship and financial backing failed to materialise, but organiser Martin Cox has decreed: “The show must go on”. He emphasised the value of

the event – the largest annual leisure gathering in the county town – after a survey showed the town centre economy bene- fited by more than £1m over the festival weekend. Mr Cox said: “Maidstone Council carried out market re- search among some 600 people, asking how much they spent and what parts they enjoyed the most. They reckoned there was more than £1m worth of business brought into the town on the festival weekend.” Althoughmost of the activity

on July 27 will take place along the River Medway,Mr Cox said he would have liked to uP6

Stones to increase stadium capacity


Gateway volunteers win funding bid uP5


Academy pupils may have longer daysuP15

u P7

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