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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

Phone signals

hit businesses EAST Malling, Mereworth and the surrounding areas experi- ence some of the worst mobile phone coverage in the South East, according to a new report. South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) identified the area as a mobile phone “cold spot”,where calls are dis- rupted when the signal cuts out and people are unable to make calls due to a lack of signal. As well as being a frustration

to individuals, research by SELEP found that 84% of busi- nesses surveyed in the South East said their work had suffered due to being in a cold spot. Leybourne resident and clerk

to Leybourne Parish Council, Julie Pilbeam, agreed mobile phone service in the area was “very poor”. She said it was al- most impossible to be with two of the big phone companies and a third was very bad. She said: “We have recently moved from Kings Hill to Ley- bourne, which is marginally better, but I still struggle when working from home, as do my neighbours. You just can’t have a conversation on a mobile un- less you stand in an upstairs bedroom and don’t move! “We have found that O2 has

the best signal, but it is only one bar in some areas; Voda- fone andOrange have the worst reputations here. My members complain about it all the time.” Clerk to Mereworth Parish Council, Gill Kirby, said

Twins’ bid to double funds

VISITORS to West Malling farm- ers’ market must have thought theywere seeing doublewhentwo sets of twins turned up to raise money for charity. Two-year-olds Ava and Luca

Miller (pictured), ofKings Hill, and TomandOliver Scott (9), fromEast Malling,helped toraisemorethan £650forSmashing it forSmithers, which will go to the oncology de-

MORE than 400 people packed into Kings Hill Community Centre for a public meeting on plans to expand the develop- ment by almost a thousand new homes. Liberty Property Trust is seek-


ing planning approval to in- crease the ever-expanding estate, bringing the total num- ber of properties up to 3,600, with a promise that a much- needed new school will also be built. The outline application,

partmentat MaidstoneHospital in memory of Addington cricketer and cancer victimKevin Smithers, of Kings Hill. The total raised on the day was

boostedby sales of raffle tickets to win a mountain bike. Tickets are on sale until August 16 – to buy them or donate money, go to the charity’s facebook page or

Plan for up to 3,600 homes and school

submitted to Tonbridge and Malling Council, is for 975 dwellings which could include a retirement/ care village; a two form entry primary school with playing fields; a self-service petrol station; a “high quality” public open space and new lin- ear park. Original plans drawn up 24

years ago for the former airfield were for 500 homes with a fur- ther 1,350 in the pipeline. In phase 2, the developers


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Inside this edition: THE third Music@Malling Festival will celebrate the centenary of the birth of ac- claimed composer Benjamin Britten. For more details see this month’s four-page sup- plement by Malling Action Partnership, which supports people, businesses and events in the 10 parishes in the Malling area.

New general store to serve village

Asbo girl banned from superstores

P24 P10

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-

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

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.

But council leader, Cllr Chris Garland, who sat in on the item as a substitute committee mem- ber – he left the chamber as soon as it had been determined so did not vote on anything else in a packed agenda – 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

Morrisons may


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

been given planning permission 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. The M Local store would create 20 jobs. Laura Stubbs from Morrisons said: “We are in the early stages of discussions and look forward to sharing our plans with the com- munity should things progress.”

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