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News Homes report ‘does not exist’

PAULCarter says a KCC-commissioned report on housing in Maidstonewas never completed. Instead, the county council leader

says the authority had received an “interim update”, which would have been what Cllr Chris Garland, former leader of Maidstone Coun- cil, referred to in the Downs Mail. Last month we reported that a freedom of information request to view a draft copy of the report, or- dered by Cllr Carter in February to prove wrong the evidence used by Maidstone Council to support a housing target of 19,600 between 2011-2031, yielded a denial from KCCthat a report had been written because it had been aborted early. This was despite KCC paying

Peter Brett Associates £15,000 to conduct the study and Cllr Gar- land’s claims that “Paul Carter had it on him when I was with him” and that it backed Maidstone

Council’s 19,600 target. Cllr Carter (pictured), who says he instructed council officers to make all the deci- sions relating to the report, said: “There was an in- terim study as part of the process of making a full re- port, whichwas to

be used as our consultation re- sponse to Maidstone Council’s draft local plan. “We set the terms of reference,

which was to check how they ar- rived at the figure for housing need and what infrastructure would be required to deliver the local plan. “We needed this turned around in three to four weeks, but after

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust news

Stroke concern

PERFORMANCE in treating stroke patients “remains a key concern and a priority for action and improvement”. The trust has drawn up an ac-

tion plan and steering group. Key aims are early assessment and treatment and specialist care in the strokeward. Extra staff are being engaged, including a consultant to ensure stroke medical cover at all times and clinical nurse specialist.

Birthing trend

THE national rise in Caesarean births is being reflected locally. Across the UK rates have dou-

bled in 20 years to 25%. Locally the figure for Maywas 25.8% and for June, 28.8%. The trust iswork- ing to reduce the rates by pre- senting options to women and is

planning to introduce mobile epidurals to encourage mobility in labour.

New meetings THEtrust has started “deep dive” workshop-style meetings to in- vestigate key problems.

Care response THE trust is responding to criti- cism that it does not have end-of- life care in its mandatory training of staff and a group has been set up to oversee an implementation plan.

Burns case THE Health and Safety Executive is bringing a prosecution against the trust after an 18-month inves- tigation into a patient burn in Maidstone in October 2012.

about sixweekswe received a half- baked report that had not even dealt with crucial issues such as in- frastructure needs, which was the most significant part of the report. “The fact it was late meant we couldn’t input their response to the local plan, which was the point of commissioning it. I said to officers that if thiswasmy money Iwould- n’t pay for the report.” Instead of using the report to re-

spond to Maidstone’s draft local plan, KCC officers produced their own response, which called for a revised figure of 14,500 homes and large housing estates in Kingswood and the former Detling Aerodrome. Cllr Carter added that the selec-

tion of a consultant was fraught, with up to 20 consultants refusing to undertake thework because they

already acted for developers. This left Peter Brett Associates as the only option. “At the moment the planning consultants enjoy streams of other work from the public sector but when youwant them to be a referee and provide checks and balances they don’t want to do it,” he said. Cllr Carter, who represents Maidstone Rural North, says he is forming a strongworking relation- ship with Cllr Annabelle Black- more, who succeeded Cllr Garland as Maidstone Council leader after the May elections, and hopes she will reduce the 19,600 target. He added: “She needs to inde- pendently assess the draft local plan, challenge the senior officers and employ massive amounts of common sense.”

Thieves targeing allotment sheds

ALLOTMENT holders are being warned to be on their guard, after a hike in thefts from potting sheds.

One parish councillor is even advising plot-holders not to lock up their sheds – as they are liable to be raided regardless.

PCSO Richard Kirby told the annual meeting of Sutton Valence Parish Council that there had been 16 break-ins at allotments all over the borough – including Maid- stone town centre. However, he said officers had put a lot of time and effort into finding the culprits – almost cer- tainly an organised gang using the same methods.

Likewise, the force had recorded a great success in arresting those responsible for heating oil thefts during the winter. Transit vans, to- gether with containers and other

equipment, had been seized, and a number of people arrested. Mr Kirby told the meeting: “These people are determined to get into the sheds at any cost and have no hesitation forcing locks in order to get in. “Unfortunately, the crime rate is up in the area this year – but theft from allotments counts for much of it.”

Cllr Phil Taylor said both of the parish allotment sites had been targeted by thieves but he added that SmartWater packs were now on their way to help protect prop- erty and identify thieves. He said: “I would almost say ‘don’t lock up your sheds’ as it’s a waste of time. The culprits will stop at nothing to get in if they are determined. The best advice is not to keep anything of any value in your sheds.”

Minister retires again – and this time he means it

THE Methodist chaplain in Head- corn will retire – for the second time – at the end of August.

Rev Peter Hills (69) left the min- istry full-time in 2010, but re- turned almost immediately when a part- time vacancy came up to take

on the pastoral care of the commu- nities at Headcorn, Shadoxhurst

28 Maidstone South August 2014

and Appledore. Four years on, the chaplain says it is now time to keep his promise to Margaret, his wife of 40 years, to reclaim his weekends and enjoy his retirement while they are both able. However, he will continue as chaplain at Kent Police HQ and training centre in Maidstone for the time being.

He said: “Not living in the area has posed some difficulties, but I have enjoyed getting involved in the spiritual care of those living in

the village and being there for events including the wonderful Ju- bilee celebration.” The cleric worked as a primary school teacher before joining the Army for 16 years, rising to the rank of major. He has been a Methodist minister for the past 26 years, 11 of them as an Army chaplain. He told the Downs Mail: “I al-

ways knew I was being drawn to the church and while, like many, I rejected the church in my teens, I never turned away from God.”

Rev Hills described his faith as a source of comfort, which gave him an enthusiasm for his retirement. “Difficult things happen to good people, and to all people. Your strength comes from how your reli- gion enables you to come through them and to enjoy the wonderful things in life,” he said.

He plans to spend more time singing in the choral groups he be- longs to, and spending time with his wife and “scatty” labrador Izzy.

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