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Town Centre Management update: Night Economy Forum No need for ‘drunk tanks’ in town

MAIDSTONE won’t be backing a call for ‘drunk tanks’ to cope with the problems of nighttime binge drinkers. The idea has won the backing of some po-

lice and crime commissioners, including Kent’sAnn Barnes, who are keen to tackle al- cohol-related problems and keep policing costs down. The scheme sees drinkers, who get so in- toxicated they could not look after them- selves cared for in holding cells until they sobered up – and charged for the pleasure, as well as being fined for being drunk and disorderly. But police toldmembers of the Night Econ-

omy Forum that the tanks had the potential to cause more problems than they solved – and thatMaidstone already dealt with the is- sues effectively. It is estimated that it costs between £300

and £400 a night to hold someone in a police cell – more than a night in the Ritz hotel – whilepolicecan issueafineofupto£80 for an offence of drunk and disorderly.

Clamping down

on beggars MAIDSTONE has become a “zero tolerance” zone for beg- ging, following complaints about the rise in the number of home- less and street sleepers. Police and social services have

been working with the council and other agencies to try to home those in need, while iden- tifying those who are coming into town with the sole purpose of harassing the public and beg- ging for money. The Night Economy Forum

was told that several arrests had beenmade in recent weeks, with offenders being bailed with the condition they keep out of the town centre. Although the condition would

only last until their court ap- pearances – likely to be the end of November or early December – this had succeeded in remov- ing most of the remaining beg- gars from the streets in the short term. Sgt John Marshall told mem-

bers: “If they re-offend, we can do it all over again.”

Design success MAIDSTONE graphic design company GeoMedia, based in the Royal Star Arcade, has been awarded the Independent cre- ative business award at this year’s Kent Independent Traders Awards ceremony. Andrew Dicker, of GeoMedia,

said: “We were incredibly pleased to win the award. Over the past five years we have worked really hard to integrate into the local community and to build a reputation for really high-quality design, so we are incredibly proud to finally have the recognition and to be an award winning agency.” For more information about

the company, go to geome-

42 East More than 31,000 people were given a

fixed penalty for the offence last year, al- though it is not known how many of those would have been so drunk that they had to be held in a cell overnight. But Maidstone police sergeant John Mar-

shall told the night economy forum that the street pastors and blue bus already dealt ef- fectively with people who were “drunk and incapable”. He said: “There is a difference between

drunk and disorderly and drunk and inca- pable.We deal with the former and the blue bus deals with the latter. If someone is drunk andincapable,theyshouldbeinhospitalor the blue bus – not a police cell. “Once we arrest someone, we become re- sponsible for their health and safety and there are all kinds of issues which compa- nies providing drunk tanks could face.” Town Centre Management chairman Paul Alcock said he was satisfied the town dealt with situations satisfactorily, as recognised in it being awarded the Purple Flag, and said:

Cash plan for paving

SHOPPERS – and shops – in Gabriel’s Hill could soon bewelcoming happy feet. The council has been wanting to re-pave the street

for a long time, but has not had the funds available. In the meantime, the paving slabs have become increas- ingly uneven and dislodged. KCChas nowsaid it will contribute£50,000 towards

the work, while Maidstone is to receive a further £100,000 from the S106 agreement signed by Next, who are to develop a Home store in Bearsted Road. The project to redevelop Lower High Street is ex- pected to be cheaper than had been anticipated, free- ing up more funds, some of which could go towards the Gabriel’s Hill scheme.

Acouncil spokesmansaid: “The Lower HighStreet is

a capital project and there is likely to be an under- spend. Cabinet has decided thatMalcolmGreer, cabi- net member for economic and commercial develop- ment, will allocate this capital budget under spend to infrastructure projects such as Earl Street and Gabriel’s Hill.”

Ladies’ loo issues an inconvenience

MAIDSTONE Council is con- fronting the problem of what to do with ladies caught short in the night. Pop-up and portable urinals

have helped provide relief for male revellers spilling out of the town’s pubs and clubs – but the council has so far failed to come up with a solution for the opposite sex. The street pastors, who work alongside the Urban Blue Bus in aiding those the worse for wear due to too much alcoholic intake, have repeatedly com- plained about ladies relieving themselves in an alley close to their base at the Switch Café. At a recent meeting of the

Night Economy Forum, it tran- spired one lady had been seen attempting to use one of the male urinals. The council claims it is not

cost effective to buy or hire a portable ladies toilet – and there are other issues attached to the use of these, the forum heard. The meeting heard that lava-

tories in the Royal Star Arcade had been locked after reports of drug dealing, and women were left with nowhere to ‘go’. Sarah Robson, the council’s community partnerships man- ager, offered to take the issue up with head of environment Steve Goulette to see how the cost of

toilet provision compared with the cost of street cleaning. Officers had suggested that

the pubs and clubs could allow ladies to use their toilets, but Julia Lucas, proprietor of Banks, in Bank Street, said this was simply not feasible. She said: “The toilets are provided for our customers. Door staff have enough problems trying to control admissions, without people trying to get in with the excuse of needing the toilet.” A council spokesperson said:

“The cost of temporary toilets is prohibitive, therefore we are looking at how other areas tackle the issue so that we can find a cost effective solution.”

Bank could find new life as pub TILLS could soonbejinglingat theformerKentishBankinJubilee Square. The Wilson family, who run the Road House and Straw- berryMoons in Gabriels Hill, areplanning torestoreandrevivethe historic building and turn it into a lively and thriving pub. An application to carry out the conversion has been submitted

to Maidstone Council and, if granted, the new owners hope to have it open in time for Christmas. The plan is to restore the building, which includes a stunning

huge glass ceiling dome, with solid oak columns and panelling. The owners plan to operate as a free house, providing drinks

and food from 10am to 11pm. The Kentish Bankwas last in use by NatWest.

Have you got news for us? Phone our News Desk on 01622 734735

“People who find their towns are in chaos should come to Maidstone and see how we work as a partnership to make it a safe and good place to be.” Drunk tanks are popular in America and

parts of Europe as a way of saving police re- sources. Prime Minister David Cameron backed the idea of establishing drunk tanks in a speech last year, but did not mention fees for those who found themselves in them. But Sergeant Marshall said: “What would

be the point in locking up a 19-year old girl who was drunk and incapable then charging her £400 to get out? She needs looking after – not locking up. “We don’t see the same people everyweek

here in Maidstone. Once someone has been locked up for being drunk and disorderly,we rarely see them again – unless they come back to say ‘thank you.’ “One difficulty is knowing where to draw

the line between ‘disorderly’ and ‘incapable’. Police are trained to recognise that, whereas a private company would not.”

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