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Maidstone Town Edition Christmas 2013 No.201 Out-of-town stores policy ‘too late’

AN attempt by Maidstone Council to stop Debenhams andWaitrose from opening out- of-town superstores has been dismissed as too little, too late. The council had previously given the

green light to a retail park at Newnham Court, off M20 Junction 7, but following the planning committee’s decision in June to grant permission for a large Next Home su- perstore at nearby Eclipse Park, officers want to change the policy to prevent large retail outlets from setting up at Newnham Court. As Downs Mail went to press, Land Secu-

rities was due to lodge an application – for a £100m retail development in Newnham Court that includes a Debenhams andWait- rose – that would be contrary to this policy, which focuses on prioritising retail devel- opment in town centre locations such as The Mall shopping centre. But Cllr Tony Harwood, deputy leader of

the Lib Dems, believes the council will be unable to halt the scheme as the policy will only hold any weight once it has been inte-

grated into the local plan, which will now not be completed until the middle of 2015, at the earliest. Referring also to the council’s recent de-

cision to allow the Maidstone Medical Cen- tre [MMC] on the same site, he said: “We’ve already permitted Next, and a massive housing development on Newnham Court Farm to the east, setting precedents outside the local plan process, which has put MBC on very shaky ground. “How can developers be expected to take

any notice of this proposed policy guidance when a speculative application [MMC] op- posite has been approved in the absence of an approved local plan?” The policy proposal – being debated as

we went to press – prioritises growth in the town centre and proposes restrictions on the redevelopment of Newnham Court to primarily replace the garden centre and as-

For the latest on the Debenhams and Waitrose plans for Newnham Court, turn to page 6

sociated shops, and restricting the overall development to just 15,000sqm – almost half that earmarked for redevelopment by Land Securities. It goes on to specify that any additional

shops should cover no more than 700sqm, and not be permitted to sell clothing, footwear, accessories, jewellery or watches. Planning policy officer Sarah Anderton,

one of the authors of the proposal, admitted the policy change still needed to go through the council approval process and would have little weight ahead of the local plan being formally approved. But she said: “It does set out the direction planning officers feel the borough should be going.” Asked if it was a little late, she said: “Some might say that.” In the meantime, detailed redevelopment

plans to treble the size of Newnham Court Shopping Village, adding a Debenhams, Waitrose and “lifestyle” shops, will go be- fore the borough’s planning committee in the new year. Responding, Cllr Harwood said the

P10 George still in the driving seat at 100

AFTER 79 years on the road, Maidstone motorist George Nissen has just had his driving licence re- newed for two years – at the age of 100. The chipper centenarian, from Sandling, says keep-

ing the keys to his two-litre Mazda – which he has had for 23 years – is goodnewsfor himand wifeAnn(90), who doesn’t drive. “I’m so lucky I’m still able to do it,”

says George, who turned 100 on No- vember21. “People saywe could get help, butwelook after ourselves. The car means we can make local trips, like to the shops, which gives us our independence.” Cars have been in his blood since George was 14, when he worked for Crows Ltd in Maidstone – a whole- sale supplier of car spares and engi- neering parts. He started driving at 18, when he

was promoted to branch manager in Canterbury. George recalls: “One of the lads was asked to take

meoutontheDownstoteachmeto drive. Half-an-hour later, the jobwas done.At that time you didn’t have to take a test – theyweren’t introduced until 1935.” His first car – given to the company in lieu of a debt

–was French, with a handbrake on the running board. George would catch the old East Kent bus home to

Maidstone atweekends, until he started playing foot- ball for Herne Bay. He also played forKent Messenger and Maidstone United. When thewar started he signed up and rose to the rank of captain, driving a motor launch in the D-Day Landings. After the war, George remembers:

“Iwalkedbackin tomy old job as if I’d been away a couple of weeks. It was quite strange after somuchhad gone on. I married Ann and moved to the housewe bought in 1945 while Iwas in Hamburg, and herewe’ve stayed.” George continued with the com-

pany, retiring as a director at the age of 75. He is nowan active member of Probus, a group for retired profes- sional businessman, and enjoys noth- ing more than being with his wife of 68 years. Sadly, both their sons died in their 50s.

Ann,whomoved from the Isle of Bute in Scotland to

be with her husband, said: “It’s very important for us that George keeps his licence. I don’t know how we would manage otherwise. The bus used to pass our front door, but nowthere is no service at all.”

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P12 Lusty resigns

from planning RICHARD Lusty has resigned from his role as chairman of the planning committee over a row with Alison Broom, Maidstone Council’s chief executive. Cllr Lusty, who has been in his

role for nine years, has left the committee altogether. He said: “I resigned because I was unhappy with the way the chief executive has dealt with my complaint re- garding a planning officer. “As chair of the planning com- mittee, I have not been dealt with as a valuable member of Maidstone Council.” Cllr Lusty declined to reveal the identity of the officer or the nature of his complaint. He also criticised the setup in the department that sees Rob Jarman, the head of planning, report directly to the chief executive. Cllr Lusty wanted the head of his depart- ment to report to a director – as used elsewhere in the council. A council spokesman was un-

able to comment on the plan- ning officer complaint, but said at least one other department, policy and communications, has a system where the head reports to the chief executive. Vice- chairman Dennis Collins was due to chair the next committee meeting on December 12. The spokesman added: “Changes to committee membership have to be agreed by full council.”

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