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Benefit laws blamed for rise in homelessness

A PROMINENT local church leader believes changes in benefit laws are

causing a disturbing increase in homelessness in Maidstone. Rev Canon Stephen Taylor, the Archdeacon of Maidstone (below), who was previously a church leader in County Durham for 25 years, says he was shocked to dis- cover that people were sleeping in doorways in Kent's county town when he took up his cur- rent role in 2011.

He claims a reason for the number of homeless people in Maidstone ris- ing further since then is that claimants now have to wait 34 days before receiving benefit payments.

Speaking at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Homeless Care's Food For Thought campaign, he said: “When people fall on hard times it is unfair they have to wait 34 days. There are a number of injus- tices in society and I hope that soci- ety is compassionate enough not only to give generously to initiatives such as Homeless Care and Food For Thought, but also to challenge those who decide things and ask ‘can they do better?’ “We are coming up to an election and I hope people will bear in mind those who have less of a voice and try to get a more equitable society.

Parking fee plan at Mote Park

PARKING charges could be introduced at Maidstone’s Mote Park to fund im- provements to facilities. Maidstone Council is considering bringing in a charge of £1 for up to six hours’ parking, with the first hour free, after a survey of residents.

Just under three quarters (73%) of residents who travel to the park by car, who responded to a council- commissioned survey, said they would pay a £1 charge. In some of the outlying

rural areas support was greater, with Staplehurst residents quizzed being 91% in support, in Marden and Yalding it was 81%, in Coxheath 82% and in Allington 79%. Slightly more than 75% of visitors overall said they would be prepared to pay £1. The majority of visitors interviewed by Lake Market Research at the park said they normally travel to Mote Park by car (85%). The primary reasons for visiting among those surveyed were to take

children to the play area (50%), to go for a walk (47%), with relaxation (23%) and dog walking (22%) also figuring.


“I began my ministry in North East England and saw the effects of the miners' strikes, closures of the steelworks and shipyards. This was a dire time.

“I could not conceive back in 1985 that all these years on we would suf- fer so many of the same problems of homelessness. My hope was that we would become a more equitable and caring society.

“The North East got itself out of a lot of the problems and when I left, it had improved – there was economic growth. I imagined Maidstone would not have the same problems they used to have

10 Shops hit by

01622 690290 YOUR LOCAL PROPERTY EXPERT 23 Pudding Lane • Maidstone • Kent

bank closure SHOPS in Snodland have been hit by the closure of the NatWest bank at the beginning of January. David Carter of A 'n' D Bargain Food Store in the High Street said that business is quieter because fewer people from outside the town are coming in and using the shops. He said: “Snodland residents who used to bank here are having to go to West Malling and Larkfield to bank and many do their shopping there. However, he said: "People have now realised that the post office has a banking service and although it has made a difference we were pos- sibly worried a bit too soon." Lorna Smith, who owns Dore- mada Florists in the High Street, said: "It stopped people coming here from Halling and Cuxton. They have no reason to come here and people have got to go further afield to bank. On the way there they may be going to a supermarket or a florist." Lorna said customers were using cards rather than cash so shopkeep- ers were losing a percentage of their profits.

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April 2015 No. 216 News

Primary education

KINGS Hill and Leybourne Chase are set to get new schools after the Department of Educa- tion allocated funding. 3

Funds for church

A CAMPAIGN has been set up to create a new building at St James the Great Church in East Malling.

Enter the enterprise

AN ENTERPRISE hub to help start-up businesses is earmarked to open in Maidstone town centre this summer.

St George’s Day fun

MORRIS dancers will be out in force during a day-long celebration on April 25. 26

Obituaries 28 Crime Reports 32

TWO wheelie bins were stolen from a home in Snodland; a rock was used to smash a second- floor window in East Malling.

Parish Councils 32-41

THE door of a workshop needed repairing after an attempted break-in in Addington; two sites for sandbags had been ear- marked in East Peckham, where local groups may benefit from a litter-clearing underspend; a lorry had skidded and harmed the vil- lage green in Offham; concern was raised about horses using a footpath in Ryarsh; councillors supported the Waterinbgbury school despite Ofsted criticism.

Town Talk alk

SCHOOL pupils in Snodland have taken action to stop anti- social parking by parents. For more details see Town Talk in the central pages of this month’s Downs Mail. The bi-monthly in- dependent magazine is dedi- cated to Snodland and Halling residents.

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