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Train links ‘running by 2018’ Burial ground

COMMUTERSinMaidstone and West Malling can look forward to a direct rail link to the City – but not for at least four years. The Department for Transport

has announced the new Thames- link franchise will include an ex- tended peak period service from Maidstone East to several sta- tions serving the City of London. The new service will provide a much-needed City service for commuters from the Maidstone East line, who lost their Cannon Street service in December 2009. It will also offer a useful link to

St Pancras, providing connec- tions to a wide range of domestic and international services for passengers travelling from sta- tions on the mid-Kent route.

The service will operate from Maidstone East viaWest Malling (for Kings Hill), Borough Green and Wrotham, Otford, Swanley, St Mary Cray, Bickley, Bromley South, Elephant & Castle, Black- friars, City Thameslink and Far- ringdon to St Pancras. The DfT has promised at least

two trains an hour during the three-hour morning peak period to London,with the same level of service during the three-hour evening peak period from Lon- don. In addition, the service will operate during the “shoulder- peak” periods. KCC has welcomed the an- nouncement and David Brazier, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “This is good

news for commuters using sta- tions on the Maidstone East line who need to get to work in vari- ous City locations. This an- nouncement demonstrates that our council's rail action plan for Kent is standing up for Kent res- idents and commuters. “KCC is very grateful to all

those who have contributed to this outcome, through our an- nual rail summits and through the rail action plan's consultation process." The new rail service, which

will be operated with brand new Siemens Thameslink trains, is planned to start in 2018, al- though the operator of the new franchise will not be known until May next year.

Schools dancing in the rain at Mela

NINE Maidstone schools braved the rain to support the 11thMaidstone Mela, which kicked off this year with a parade in the town centre. More than 500 children paraded from County Hall

to Jubilee Square, accompanied by samba bands and African drummers on‘Mela Friday’. The event was organised by Cohesion Plus, Maid-

stone Borough Council,Kent EqualityCohesionCoun- cil and MaidstoneMela Advisory Group. Gurvinder Sandher, artistic director for the Mela,

said: “The schools parade was our biggest to date and brought the towncentre to a standstill, while the stage programme on Sundaywas ourmost ambitious so far and held the audience throughout the day.” Around 10,000 people defied the rain and overcast

skies to enjoy a full stage programme showcasing culturally diverse talent, mostly from Kent. Highlights included the Maidstone-based Bolly-

wood Blast, the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Harmony, Four by Four Bhangra and rising

KENT’S police and crime com- missioner Ann Barnes has pub- lished an independent review into the recruitment and selec- tion processes used to appoint Paris Brown as youth crime commissioner earlier this year. Ms Brown stepped down ear-

lier this year following revela- tions of comments she had posted on Twitter when she was younger. The report, carried out by the University of Central Lan- cashire, found the recruitment was a “robust, transparent and a very well-designed and run

Youngsters taking part in theMela parade

RnB star J Sol. TheMela was brought to a climax by popularMadness tribute group, Badness. As well as the music and dance, visitors were able

to sample food and drink from around theworld from many of the 50 supporting stalls.

Review backs youth crime recruitment

process”. It also found that the recruitment process satisfied and exceeded high standards ex- pected of any public body. Professional advice of a very

high standard was sought and followed, and there were fre- quent checks and balances. The report clarified that the vetting checks were identical to those carried out for the bulk of posts within Kent Police, and at the time there was no identified reason to seek to go beyond those checks. Ms Barnes said: “This report clearly sets out that the recruit-

THE family of a pregnant woman from Maidstone, who was turned away from hospital and later died, is to receive £400,000 in damages from Maidstone and TunbridgeWells NHS. More than half will go to Rebecca Ben- Nejma’s daughter and son, aged 15 and four, who have been left without a mum following her death in 2010 from an ec- topic pregnancy. Rebecca (28), from Maidstone, collapsed

and died in front of her husband and daughter, after having twice been sent home in pain by Maidstone Hospital. The Kent NHS Trust has apologised and admit-

ment process used was rigorous, and fully complied with the guidelines used across great swathes of the policing and wider public services world. “The report conclusions can be summed up as saying thatmy of- fice didn’t ask for social net- working vetting to be done, and the force didn’t advise that it should be done. It’s a classic case of something falling between two stools. I take responsibility for this. Lessons have been learned and it’s now time tomove on.” You can see the review at

ted liability. Mrs Ben-Nejma went to the hospital’s A&E department late on a Friday afternoon with abdominal pains, but was told to return on Monday as there was no one to carry out the scan she needed. She died on the Sunday after having been

sent home from hospital again the day be- fore with painkillers for suspected gastro- enteritis. The trust’s medical director Dr Paul Sigston said: “The trust sincerely and un- reservedly apologises for the failings that contributed to the death ofMrs Ben-Nejma, following the misdiagnosis of her condi- tion at Maidstone Hospital.

‘crisis’ revealed A BBC survey has prompted Maidstone Council to assess its available burial space after the broadcaster claimed there was a crisis with almost half of Eng- land’s cemeteries being full within 20 years. While the council says it has enough municipal burial space for another 15-20 years, some parishes have turned to landowners to extend rural churchyards, while others have been warned they could face the prospect of not being able to bury loved ones nearby. TheMinistry of Justice, which

is responsible for burial law, says it is keeping the situation under review. It said: “Any changes in the way in which graves and cemeteries might be managed need to be considered sensi- tively.”

New pastors MAIDSTONE Street Pastors are forging aheadwith their recruit- ment drive after their work was highlighted in the Downs Mail. Co-ordinator Nigel Downs,

who has been giving presenta- tions at Sunday church services, said: “We have had a lot of en- quiries and the first volunteers have started training. Once they have completed four training sessions, they will be commis- sioned at Maidstone Baptist Church on November 22.” Street pastors go out in the

town centre at weekends to help vulnerable people, and give up one night every four weeks. Call Nigel on 07817 250705, email or visit www.maidstone.street-

Volunteer forum THE Volunteer Centre, part of Voluntary Action Maidstone, is inviting volunteer coordinators, managers and supervisors to comment on the work of theVol- unteer Co-ordinators’ Forum. The event at the Town Hall, Middle Row, Maidstone, at 4pm on November 5, will last an hour, during which tea and cake will be served. For further details please con-

tact Liz Tredget on 01622 677 337 or 07596 849 114.

£400,000 damages for family of tragic mum

“While the settlement cannot ever com- pensate the family for their loss, we hope it will help provide some comfort.” He said the trust had now introduced a

range ofmeasures, including strengthening the emergency gynaecology service – cen- tralised at Tunbridge Wells Hospital – “to give patients better access to senior staff, diagnostic equipment and treatment in emergency situations”. He added: “Scanning equipment and senior management staff in women and children’s care are now available at Tun- bridge Wells Hospital 24 hours a day, in- cluding weekends.”

To contact Downs Mail just phone 01622 630330 East 43

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