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Maidstone Town Edition September 2013 No.197 £1m ‘lost’ in Next plan Cobtree land

MAIDSTONE Council may have missed out on a £1m “chimney pot tax” receipt on the Next development, due to not having a policy containing a community infrastructure levy. In June, the council’s plan-

ning committee marginally voted to give the retailer plan- ning permission to build a 5,748sqm Next Home super- store at Eclipse Park, near M20 Junction 7. The council agreed that the developer should pay £100,000 in Section 106 money towards improving the town centre and the vicinity of the superstore to mitigate its negative effects.

However, Wycombe District Council has secured £1.34m from Next for an almost identi- cal out-of-town superstore be- cause it has a community infrastructure levy policy (CIL) in its local plan. ACIL isachargeleviedon developers to pay for infra- structure, local services and en- vironmental enhancements. Maidstone Council leader Chris Garland said the borough might not have a CIL in place until 2015. He said: “HighWycombe had Section 106 agreements and also a CIL, which is a chimney pot tax where you can set tax for residential and commercial

THOUSANDS of people dodged the rain showers to enjoywhat could have been the last Maidstone River Festival in its current form. This year’s festival went ahead despite financial

struggles, and was deemed a success by organisers and those who attended. However, chairman Martin Cox said itwas unlikely2014’s river festivalwould fol- lowthe same format. He said: “I don’t think it will happen next year in the

same guise, but something will happen. I think the people of Maidstone, and indeed people from further afield, really likethefestival,but it isdownto the coun- cil as they are the ones with the money, the expertise and thewillingness towant to do it.” Visitors to this year’s festival enjoyedtheannual raft

race, won by the Young Farmers team, as well as live music, a funfair and the famous firework finale. Mr Cox said in future years itmight be beneficial to

exploreways of involving a wider cross section of the community. He suggested extending the festival into

The Young Farmers’ team won the raft race

the town centre to benefit local trade, temporarily transforming Maidstone’s parks into lively village greens or even reinstating the carnival. Resident Jennifer Hopkins of Upper Fant Road couldn’t have been happier with howthis year’s festi- valwent. She told DownsMail: “I justwanted to

Children’s centres facing closure

CONCERN is mounting over proposed changes to Kent’s children’s centres, which could see closures at Loose, Marden, Larkfield and East Peckham. Children’s centres provide information and ac-

cess to services for families with children under five years old. Each centre offers a variety of serv- ices, including childcare provision, support for parents thinking about training or finding a new job, antenatal classes and baby clinics, services for children with special needs and disabilities, links with voluntary agencies and links with schools. There are nine children’s centres in Maidstone serving a population of almost 10,000 babies and pre-school children. KCC Cllr Jenny Whittle, cabinet member for specialist children’s services, said: “Public fund- ing for children’s centres is reducing and we need to ensure the available money can be focused more on actual services for children and their families and less on running buildings and other overhead costs.

“We need to change the waywework sowe can

meet the needs of our children and their families, particularly those who need our support most.” KCC’s plan aims to save at least £1.5mwhile de- livering the same – or better – services to families. As well as the closure of some centres, the council wants to link others to reduce manage- ment and administrative costs. Nurseries and pre-schools that share children’s

centre buildings are excluded from the shake-up. KCC has put out a consultation document, Shaping the Future of Children’s Centres in Kent, inviting public response before October 4. Jasper Gerard, LibDem spokesman for Maid-

stone and the Weald, said he would like KCC to consult those who stood to be most affected by the closures and to seek alternative ways forward. He said: “I would urge them to look at compro- mises: for instance, the centre in Marden is large – might it not be possible to sell that and buy a smaller one?”

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developments. We are working to get a CIL in place, but until then, the only tool we have is Section 106 to mitigate the im- pact on particular develop- ments.” The CIL was established as

part of the Government’s Na- tional Planning Policy Frame- work. “The reason we have not got

CIL in place is because of a lack of staff resources.We are trying to get a local planning policy in place, which is our priority. Staff are working on that and are dealing with incoming plan- ning applications. “There is an argument that

we could havemade CIL P4 River festival ‘might have to change’

could be up for sale

PART of Maidstone’s historic Cobtree estate could be sold off for development under the council’s new local plan. Members of the Cobtree Manor Estate Committee, which administers the estate on behalf of the Cobtree Manor Trust, have been asked if they want to include an 8.8 hectare parcel of land south of Forstal Road in the plan. The committee heard that if

the land was included in the council’s local plan, it could be a useful cash injection. The land is leased to KCC and

forms part of the site occupied by the Kent Museum of Rural Life, but if it was sold off, it could be developed to provide local employment opportuni- ties, without any major impact on the museum. However, while the commit-

tee has to act in the best inter- ests of the trust and a cash injection could be useful, the committee would like to see the Cobtree park and Kent Museum of Rural Life developed further, to include a riversidewalk into Maidstone. Members have asked the Char-


ity Commission for its views. The council is in themidst of identifying potential employ- ment sites as part of its local plan and the cabinet will con- sider allocations in September. The Cobtree land was put for-

ward last time the council com- piled its local plan, although not ultimately allocated. Officers believe the committee

now has a second opportunity. A report to the committee

states: “Allocating the land now does not commit the charity to developing the site, but doing so would keep its options open. The opportunity to include the site for development purposes will not occur again until the local plan is reviewed.” Cllr JohnWilson, chair of the Cobtree Manor Estate Commit- tee, said: “We have to act in the best interests of the trust.”

Council targets up to £5.5m savings


High Street flagpoles labelled ‘tacky’ P6

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