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New park and ride ‘can cut jams’

DRIVERS could be squeezed out ofMaidstone in a plan to raise long-stay parking charges and increase the frequency of park and ride.

As Downs Mail went to press, Maidstone Council’s cabinet was being asked to approve a strategy to prioritise shoppers and visitors and include a review of residents’ parking.

Proposals include creating a new 1,000-car park and ride facility at Linton and town centre towpaths to form a usable cycle route. There would be a hike in long-

stay parking charges and a reduc- tion in the number of long-stay spaces – but improved bus fre-

Failing school facing merger

TWO Bearsted schools could be merged as part of a bid to rescue a failing primary school. Inspectors from Ofsted placed Magdinford Park Junior School into special measures following a damning inspection. Now, the Egremont Road school

could be merged with the nearby Madginford Park Infant School, in Merton Road, under the leadership of infant head teacher Stephanie Guthrie.

Madginford Park Infants was

given an outstanding rating at its last full inspection, in 2008. KCC’s proposal mirrors the merger of the former St Stephen’s Infant School, Tovil, with All Saints Primary School, Maidstone, to form the newArchbishop Courtenay Pri- mary School in Eccleston Road, Tovil.

Madginford Park Junior School

has 378 pupils aged 7 to 11, while the infant school has another 250. The combined school would offer places for 630 children aged four to 11, with an annual intake of 90. There will be a public


quency and an improved park and ride service. Councillors have been told Maid-

stone is a town like no other – with roads that are “tight, too small, too narrow and cannot be altered”. As well as offering workers a

more cost-effective means of get- ting into town, it would give resi- dents in outlying rural areas access to more frequent, affordable buses, the transport scrutiny committee was told. Head of planning Rob Jarman

said Maidstone had very limited options.“We need to make smarter use of what we already have,” he told members. “Congestion will only get worse.” The committee heard that relatively small reduc- tions in traffic flows could have a major impact on congestion. At present, just 2% of people travelling into Maidstone use park and ride. Even if no more houses were to

be built in the borough, the population was still in- creasing, whichwould

5 Psychic takes over rural pub

A PSYCHIC medium has taken on the Hook and Hatchet pub in Hucking with her chef partner.

Charlotte Clark (50), from the Isle of Sheppey, and David Bacon (46) want to bring the rundown Shepherd Neame venture back into a traditional country pub appealing to locals, walkers and riders.

“This is going to work, big time; just saying it makes me go all goosey,” predicts the white witch, who was told in a reading that she was going to start a business venture – and then get married.

The couple intend to provide good affordable food as well as staging psychic events. “I don’t know where it’s come from but the locals are already calling me the voodoo woman,” she laughed. “A lot of pubs are going out of business, which is frightening, but something is driving us forward.”

There is plenty to do before the opening on March 22 – and the couple’s wedding at Hucking church in October. The remote hostelry has been empty for many months and thieves have stripped it of its pipework and kitchen. Fly-tippers have also been at work. The couple are investing £30,000 in the refurbishment and their tenancy agreement. Charlotte said: “We intend putting the pub back on the map as a hub of the community.”

February 2014 No. 202 News Campaign success

THE Downs Mail-backed winter shelter campaign has received a good response, with rough sleep- ers receiving a warm meal and overnight shelter.

5 KIMS delay averted

THE Kent Institute of Medicine & Surgery (KIMS) is on course to open in April after the company’s proposed highway changes were accepted.

6 Road safety demand

RESIDENTS in Leeds are demand- ing the B2163 through the village is made completely safe before it reopens, which may not happen until May.

8 Chaos holds up work

A PLANNED part closure of the A249 near Detling for piping work was put on hold after traf- fic chaos ensued. 12

Planning ‘in crisis’

COUNCILLOR says system has “been undone”. 19

Comment 30-31

LAST month’s Lenham Co-op de- bate provoked further reaction, which we respond to. The future of M20 J7 remains a hot topic, and readers share heartwarming accounts on health matters.

Obituaries 34

Crime Reports 46 Parish Councils 47

A NEW defibrilator is given the go-ahead in Boughton Malherbe; Broomfield and Kingswood voice concerns about Maidstone Coun- cil’s proposal to stop sending out paper copies of planning applica- tions; a search is on for volunteers to help a woodland planting proj- ect in Downswood; annual ac- counts cause embarrassment to councillors in Hollingbourne; a public meeting on solar farms is on the agenda in Ulcombe.

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