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New theatre ‘Great Expectations’ 

THE hoary old subject of a magnificent big riverside theatre for Maidstone has surfaced again. We have been there before, several times, and as much as many of us would love to see it happen, public funds will not pay for the capital build and se- rious ongoing financial support will not come from our council tax. I recall about 10 years ago adding Downs

Mail to the list of supporters for a new the- atre and spoke of my dreams of watching great shows there and enjoying an interval drink on a balcony overlooking a much- improved River Medway scene. So I know all about that fantasy. But working closely as a journalist with Maidstone Council, understanding much better the challenge of local authority budgeting and spending and talking to councillors and officers who shouldered heavy responsibility, the hard truths very soon dawned. A large theatre would cost many mil-

lions of pounds to build. Where would that come from? There were very few money pots around a decade ago, and even fewer today as we come through years of recession. Just supposing a fairy godmother comes

TWO bronze statues of grey- hounds were stolen from a property in Rumstead Lane, Stockbury. Thieves got in to a home in Murrain Drive, Maidstone,and stole a computer and musical instruments. A triple-axle silver Bateson

trailer was stolen from a shed in Wormshill. A Dell computer was stolen

from an office building in Cheg- worth Road, Harrietsham. A 6ft wooden bridge was

stolen from a field in Crumps Lane, Ulcombe. Diesel was siphoned from a

white Mercedes tipper lorry parked in Woolley Road, Senacre. The suspects might have been two males, driving a dark Audi. Intruders got in to a garage in

the back garden of a home in Camomile Drive, Weavering,


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along and finds the money to build it for us and gifts it to our town. What chance does Maidstone have of running a big and exciting programme of shows and events and covering costs? The experts told me then the answer was

“no chance”. For very many years the Ha- zlitt Theatre has served us well and is rel- atively inexpensive to run, but every year we taxpayers had to pay a substantial sub- sidy.We are relieved of that now, as coun- cil policy is to hand over the operation to a private company. Could a good marketing operation change all that? I do not think so. Two ex- cellent provincial theatres are within easy reach at Bromley and Canterbury, and Lon- don’s West End is about an hour away by train. I, too, had “Great Expectations” but they turned out to be “Much Ado About Noth- ing”.

Booming Maidstone IF high streets are having a very

tough time just now with the re- cession and online competition, then surely Maidstone bucks the trend. I am not much of a charity shop customer, but when I needed something as unusual as an old school bell, I thought I would cash

in on Maidstone’s reputation as a centre for such shops. So I hunted Week Street, Earl Street, King Street and really strug- gled. Itwas not until I reached close to the end of Union Street that the bell rang. It was not easy to find an empty shop in

town. True, businesses come and go. But they seem to keep coming to Maidstone, and that says much for our town centre. It seems landlords have been reducing

town centre rents in the face of recent harsh realities, and this has attracted smaller independent businesses back to the town centre. Iturnedmymindtowhatishappening

or proposed at Eclipse Park (the new Next Home store) and new shops at Newnham Court Shopping Village. I rather welcome it all – but I have reservations on the im- pact on the town centre. I hope and think both can flourish. It will not be good news for the town centre if I am wrong.

Beat the criminals IF YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE PHONE: Police: 101 Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111

and a grey Carvelo bicycle, Ping golf clubs and two spare wheels were stolen. A GPS system and

cash were stolen from a black Vauxhall Corsa on the driveway of a home in Bedgebury Close, Vinters Park. Number plates were re- moved from a BMW and a blue Nissan in the residential car park at Forge Meadow, Harriet- sham. The suspect is thought to be a white male, aged from 17- 25, 5ft 8ins tall, of thin build, with short mousey-coloured

hair. He was clean shaven, had a southern accent, and was wearing a blue long-sleeved top and blue tracksuit bottoms. He was with a woman who was wearing a white coat. They were thought to be driving a white Toyota hatchback.

A Hoover washing machine

was taken from a driveway in Fallowfield Close, Weavering. The suspectwas a tall slim man with ginger hair and glasses, who was driving a Ford Transit vehicle.

Police chief announces retirement

KENT Police Chief Constable Ian Learmonth has an- nounced that he will be leaving in January after three years with the force.

Mr Learmonth plans to retire after a 40-

year career, beginning with Essex Police as a cadet and later with Strathclyde Police and the Norfolk Constabulary before joining Kent. Kent Police & Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes paid tribute to his “dedication, pro- fessionalism, commitment and leadership skills”.

She said: “During his time in Kent, he has not only had to deal with the pressures con- sidered normal for such a high rank, but he has had to lead the force through a period of unprece- dented change relating to the most severe budget cut- backs in living memory.

52 East

“Anyone connected with the policing family of Kent will know that he has managed these challenges with great skill and, despite the pressures, has al- ways maintained the respect, and indeed the affection, of those in the force and the wider community.” Mr Learmonth said: “Forty years’ public

service is a significant milestone, and a good time to reflect. The timing of retirement is not an easy thing to think about, but I have decided to do so in January. The force has the best officers and staff I have ever come across – totally dedicated in their duty to protecting and serving the public. “I leave with immense feelings of pride in

what they have achieved in my three and a half years as chief constable, and to have had the honour to lead Kent Police has been both humbling and inspiring”.

Burglars stole a handbag con- taining cash, cheques/cards and documents from a house in Beauworth Park, Willington Street.

A blue Vauxhall Corsa parked off Otham Street, Otham, was broken into and the ignition and steering was damaged. Intruders got in to a home in Freeman Way, Senacre, and cash, jewellery and vehicle documents were stolen. There was an unsuccessful at- tempt to break in to a home in Reinden Grove, Downswood. Intruders searched a house in Manor Rise, Bearsted, and stole cash.

The grill and two fog lights were stolen from a silver Fiesta on the driveway of a home in Weavering Street, Weavering. A black Chris Boardman road bike with white mudguards was stolen from the railings in Lock Lane, Sandling, to which it had been secured. The lock had been cut and left lying on the ground.

Intruders got in to a home in Downs View Road, Penenden Heath, but nothing appeared to have been stolen.


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