This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. Make councillors pay up

Dear Sir – It never ceases to amaze me how stupid councillors can be. In the latest episode the planning commieewent against expert officer recommendations and deferred applications for housing in the Suon Road area, despite the land being designated for the purpose. This is extremely naive and stupid and riskswasting council taxpayers’ money. With the Government demanding that Maidstone provides so many houses, and land being allocated in the core strategy for that very purpose, certain members of the planning commiee, led by acting Lib Dem group leader, Tony Harwood, tried to derail the process, despite officer advice that if the applicants appeal, they would win and Maidstonewould have to pick up the bill for costs running to many thousands of pounds. We, whowould pick up the tab, have every right to be concerned. But this never seems to be shared by irresponsible councillors. I remember many years ago Gordon Bonner, the then leader of the ruling Conservative group,warning cavalier councillors that they must stop going against officer advice, especially when it costs the council money. Is it not time now for the chief executive of the council towarn our irresponsible representatives that there might come a time when, if they disregard expert advice they might have to pick up subsequent bills for costs themselves as individuals? Wewould all vote for that I think. The alternative is to not elect these navel- gazing idiots when they stand again. Peter Edwards, HarrowWay,Weavering

I understand your point, Peter, but when councillors are determining a scheme that would see the provision of almost 900 homes as well as the widening of a residential main road, they owe it to residents to make the correct decision. If this takes a lile longer than the developers would want then so be it. Your definition of an irresponsible councillor differs to mine.Waving through large schemes at the hint of an appeal threat from a developer is irresponsible. Ordering planning officers to negotiate a beer deal for Maidstone is responsible and the end result was that councillors accepted the scheme at the next commiee meeting three weeks later (see page 34) aer concerns on affordable housing and road widening – two key issues – were allayed. I would like to know how many other readers agree with your suggestion that councillors should be fined for overruling officers. Given backbench councillors, many of whom made the decision you criticise, pick up a basic allowance of £388 per month and modest travel and subsistence expenses, it would deter those without a fortune to fall back on. A borough council whose members are exclusively rich is not my idea of local democracy. Response by Stephen

Changes no improvement

Dear Sir – Reading (or aempting) the new and “improved” Downs Mail Iwas reminded of an old American proverb – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The paperwas valued for its clear, black,

32 Maidstone Town March 2014

readable print and its wide and succinct reportage, aswell as for its minimal but relevant editorial input. Thatwas fine, just the way itwas. What has been “improved”? G E French, Marion Crescent, Maidstone

Comment not welcome

Dear Sir – Until now I have loved receiving the Downs Mail andwould immediately turn to the Leers page. It belonged to the readers and felt like a genuine forum for our opinions, freely expressed. Now you have changed it to what appears to be a page for you and your staff to express their own opinions for at least 50% of content. In addition, the new typeface is too small to read. Give it back to us; return it to the previous format.We are quite capable of forming our own opinions on leer content. Everyone I have spoken to feels the same. Jean and Malcolm Beaton, Hill Brow, Bearsted

Thank you for your feedback.We have taken on board comments on the main body type size and have increased it aer the first round of editions. I hope you notice a positive difference. As for the Comment section, we at Downs Mail have always offered our views through the Mail Marks column.We felt that responding to some (not all) leers would provide additional opinions and encourage debate. There are also occasions when we can use our insight to clarify unqualified points made by the writer. We aren’t aiming to be controversial or to belile the views of our readers but to interact beer with them. Hopefully you will grow to like the section. Response by Stephen

Cricket festival

Dear Sir – Many in Maidstone will be encouraged that there is still a real chance of Maidstone’s annual county cricket festival returning (Leers, January). The key players to put all this together seem to be Mote Cricket Club, Kent Cricket Club and Maidstone Council. But will our council really get behind this exciting Mote development and offer the support needed for the highlight of Maidstone’s summer social season? Geoff Johnson, Maidstone

According to Mote Cricket Club, Maidstone Council strongly supports for its redevelopment plan and has made a £15,000 grant to help the club prepare the full planning application. Response by Stephen

Sticking up for residents

Dear Sir – It is disappointing that the once politically-fair Downs Mail should launch such a partisan and personal aack on me (Mail Marks, February) rather than sticking up for residents and the borough’s open spaces. To correct your editorial, I have never said there can be zero greenfield development. But I do demand that we prioritise brownfield development rather than pushing a whopping 90% of new housing on to green fields. All Lib Dem councillors are as passionate as I amabout this. I amproud that our

councillors pushed for a new policy to prioritise brownfield development over sites such as Five Acre and BluebellWoods. I amonly sad that thiswas defeated by Conservative councillors. We all understand the development pressure, but do Maidstone Conservatives take no responsibility for the devastating development they are about to unleash on this once rural borough? Liberal Democrats, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, and even Conservative politicians such as Eric Pickles and Kent county councillors all agree that the buck stops with the council. All this cheerleading in the Tory press tells me is that Conservatives are terrified that they are going to be punished for their developer-led planning free-for-all in May’s local elections. Jasper Gerard, Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner, Maidstone and theWeald

Let me assure you, Jasper, that Downs Mail does not favour any political party. Mail Marks is a column that represents the opinions of one individual and has no bearing on our non-slanted approach to local news. Response by Stephen

Tree killer needs aention

Dear Sir – I hope the Government, councils and highways agencies have taken notice of the damage that has been done to our countryside by the winter storms. Ivy has taken hold of our trees and hedgerows, and is killing the oak trees. The fir trees at the end ofWillington Street out on to the A20 must be dangerous, because fir roots run shallow in the ground and these trees are really tall. I ama pensioner in my 70s, and can remember oak trees in Mote Park with no ivy growing, but now it’s sad to say they may not be there much longer. It’s about time someone realised the dangers it’s causing, and did something about it before all the trees and habitat have disappeared. Having been born and grown up in the countryside, it’s sad to see it slowly dying. A Goodwin, Mangravet Avenue, Maidstone

The rough weather has certainly exposed the tireless march of ivy around our roadside trees, with long loops of the stuff creating huge swathes, like curtains, hanging loosely across our country lanes. Not only do these pose a hazard to motorists, oen hiding a solid tree trunk behind them, but le unchecked, this ferocious climber will strangle our trees. Once it gets its feet in the ground the only successful way I have found of removing it is by hand – roots and all. Hopefully, the powers that be will know of a more skilled – and quicker – way of removing this rampant demon, which needs stopping before it takes over. Response by Dawn

Reason for evictions

Dear Sir – I am writing in response to the article about Judith and FergusWilson evicting tenants on benefits. My husband and I lived in a property in Maidstone that we rented through a private landlord andwe toowere evicted because part of the rentwas paid to our


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