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downsmail.co.uk Theatre to get £120,000 faceli


WORK has begun on a £120,000 facelift to make the Hazlitt The- atre in Maidstone more appealing to theatregoers, performers and production companies. The investment comes from Park-


wood Theatres, a branch of Park- wood Leisure, which took over the running of the 1950s building from Maidstone Council in October. Gary Roden, general manager of


Parkwood Theatres, said: “We de- cidedwewanted to make a signifi- cant investment at the front end of our 15-year contract to fully engage in building a bright future for the


Cemetery bid THE decision over whether to con- vert the gatehouse at Maidstone Graveyard into a three-bed house is to go to appeal. Applicant Stuart Anderson has


lost patience with Maidstone Coun- cil’s inability to decide on the pro- posed restoration of the vacant Grade II Listed Cemetery Lodge, in Sutton Road, and has asked a plan- ning inspector to determine the scheme. The council says it would have refused the scheme for its lack of an up to date noise assessment.


theatre from the start.” The Hazlitt joins the group’s port-


folio of four. Mr Roden added: “I am passionate about developing the theatre’s successes, like its youth theatre, and extending its ap- peal with a popular programme that allows us also to take risks for those committed to the arts. “In this way, we will ensure the Hazlitt iswell used, admissions rise and it remains a theatre for all.” All 353 seats in the main audito-


rium are being replaced, as is the carpet through to the foyer. The bar will be re-carpeted and decorated


and a stage added for smaller acts. Mr Roden said:“We hope the bar


will be finished by the end of Feb- ruary with no interruption to schedules.” There is also a plan to move the


box office to the front of house, in Earl Street. The current box office is, unusually, tucked away at the back of the building, only switch- ing to front of house for perform- ances.


Further money will be spent re- branding the front of the theatre, noticeboards and marketing mate- rials.


Over 100 jobs to go at mill


WHATMAN’S Springfield Mill in Maidstone is to close, with the loss of 101 jobs. GE Healthcare, which bought


the company in 2008, is to move production from its Sandling Road site to its other manufactur- ing plants in Cardiff, Asia and Sweden. The company, which makes specialist papers for scientific and medical applications, anticipates the mill’s last day of operation will be December 31.


“Those affected by the closure


will be offered support to find an- other position,” said DrVal Jones, for GE Healthcare Life Sciences. She added: “The decision to


close our site at Maidstone is in no way a reflection of the com- mitment and hard work of our employees who have worked with great care and the utmost professionalism.” She confirmed that the site


would be sold, but had no further details about its future use.


Longer visits


MAIDSTONE Hospital is extend- ing visiting times for visitors to its wards. Visitors can now go to see pa-


tients from 8am until 8pm every day, in line with visiting times at TunbridgeWells Hospital. Previous times varied according to theward, but most were from 3-5pm and 6.30pm-8pm Chief nurse for Maidstone and


Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Avey Bhatia, said: “The new hours give visitors much more flexibility to arrange to come and see a friend.”


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