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Town Centre Management update: Maidstone Business Forum ‘Brighter’ high street is opened


THE new-look lower High Street was officially opened by Maidstone Mayor Clive English and Cllr Malcolm Greer on Sat- urday, November 23. It marks the completion of a project to upgrade the entire length of the High Street that began in 2008 and has cost the borough council just under £4m. Cllr Greer, who has co-ordi-


nated the project as the coun- cil’s economic and commercial development cabinet member, told Maidstone Business Forum he was “chuffed” with the end result. He said: “I would have liked


to have done it all in one go, and we could have done it with pavers, but they look tired in a few years. The granite gives us


MAIDSTONE could find itself a centre for university educa- tion.


the longevity we wanted and lifts and brightens the whole area.” Trees, seating areas and a new


home for the town’s cannon have created a setting to de- velop the “café culture” in Maidstone further, Town Centre Management members were told. The second phase of the work


by Conways is expected to pro- duce a £40,000 underspend on the budget.  KCC has resumed control of phase 1 following the improve- ment work and a reinstatement programme agreed in the wake of work by utility companies. Specification for the reinstate- ment work has been agreed and stocks of granitewill be held for this.


KIMS hopes to create a Uni- versity Campus of Medical Ex- cellence on site, working with Christchurch University of Canterbury, and other leading institutes.


On their doorstep, the Uni- versity for the Creative Arts is concentrating its media courses at the former Maidstone Stu- dios in New Cut Lane, which could, in time, become a uni- versity campus.


De-clutter


MORE clutter is to be removed from the town centre as part of Cllr Greer’s personal campaign to tidy up the town.


He told the forum: “Getting on for 2,000 disused signs and barriers have so far been re- moved in this drive. This has made cleaning the town much easier and more efficient.” Funding for this work has come from the High Street un- derspend.


Wifi proposal A PRESENTATION on provid- ing wifi for the whole town is expected to be given to the Town Team in December. Andrew Simms said: “This is just one scheme that we are looking at, using some of the estimated £40k remaining from the High Street underspend. “It would benefit the whole town.”


Museum post MAIDSTONE Museum will be looking for a curator with com- mercial experience and market- ing ability, to attract iconic touring exhibitions.


The museum, which is about to advertise the post, will be hoping to increase its appeal to visitors.


ARTISTS’ impressions are being drawn up for further pub- lic realm work to pedestrianise as much of Earl Street as possi- ble, and for improvement schemes on Gabriels Hill and from Fremlin Walk to Union Street.


They will be ready in Decem- ber and will be followed up by a public consultation.


Cllr Greer said: “It is impor- tant that this work should con- tinue following the success of the High Street works, which, in itself, has attracted new busi- nesses, created 100 new jobs and added £4m year on year to the local economy. “However, we have to be in-


ventive to continue this kind of work. Funding for projects in future will have to come from Section 106 agreements, devel- oper contributions and CILS money.”


Quarterly meetings planned THE Town Centre Management Business Forum will meet every quarter from the New Year.


It was felt this would strengthen the content of the former monthly meetings and more people would be able to attend. The next meeting will be in February.


Cllr Malcolm Greer puts the finishing touches to the granite setts in


Maidstone High Street during phase one of the works


ONE of the businesses benefiting from the newlayout of theHigh Street will be The Brenchley bar and restaurant off Jubilee Square. Sympathetic restoration work inside the former bank is being carried


out under the direction of owner RobWilson, who also owns Strawberry Moons in the town. The old-style free housewas expected to open at the endofNovember. Elsewhere intown,Wagamama’srestaurantopenedon November 13.


Campus plans Town face-lift set to continue Support for


festive events THE forum reported there would be a stronger festive feel and marketing drive in Maidstone this Christmas. Members heard that £74,000


has been spent improving the Christmas lights and decora- tions in Maidstone, festive ac- tivities are planned and the town marketing campaign would include newspaper ad- vertisements and posters on Arriva buses. Kent Police would run a


purse and handbag theft awareness campaign in the town.


Acting chairman Andrew Simms said: “There will be a greater push this year to sup- port our traders and events in the town.”  Early talks are being held regarding a St George’s Day celebration in the town on Sat- urday, April 26.


Royal hopes for opening of KIMS


THE forum heard therewere hopes that a member of the Royal family will open the newKent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS) off M20 Junction 7. Cllr Malcolm Greer reported


work on phase one was almost complete, with commissioning of equipment about to start and an opening ceremony likely in April. He said: “Since outline approval


was given for the second phase of the project, KIMS has received in- terest from medical institutes in- terested in locating at the campus. “We know that Great Ormond


Street is coming and Stoke Man- deville, to add to the already im- pressivelistof leading clinicians to be based at KIMS. The message is simple: If you are going to get ill,


make sure it’s in Maidstone.” He continued: “Maidstone


shouldbeproud tohavetheproject located here, when it could have gone to Kings Hill or Ashford. The management of KIMS should be congratulated on bringing a proj- ect of this kind forward in such re- cessionary times.” Cllr Greer reported that work on phase two of the project–the final


phase – would start next year and take about five years to complete, creating a further 3,000 quality jobs in the borough. He rejected the suggestion that phase two would openupthe area tomorede- velopment, “swallowingBearsted”, outtoJunction8.Hesaid: “Thereis a hugewedge ofwoodland to stop this happening and the areawould be protected.”


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