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Drivers urged to share journeys

CAR-sharing initiatives are to be encouraged in Maidstone to help reduce the volume of traffic on the roads. Maidstone has one of the highest

rates of single occupancy car use in Kent, with 52% of journeys made by the driver alone. Kent County Council already manages “kentjourneyshare”, a freeweb-based service which links drivers, passengers and taxi users who make similar journeys and en- courages them to share their trips. It also manages the “New Ways

2 Work” scheme to encourage sus- tainable travel choices. Even so, figures obtained from

the 2011 census revealed that 50,131 people – 44.3% of Maid- stone’s population – drove a car to work, 8% (9,023) walked and 4.6% (5,257) used the train. A further 31% were not in work and 4.2% (4,705 people) worked from home. Only 0.8% cycled to work, 0.5%

rode a motorcycle or scooter and 2.6% travelled by bus or coach. Maidstone has very high levels

of car ownership and usage com- pared with other parts of the coun- try, says a report to the council.

Some 84% of households in the borough have at least one car, com- pared with 80% averaged across Kent and 74% across England. The heavy reliance on a small number of key junctions – espe- cially in the town centre – means Maidstone is vulnerable when ac- cidents occur on the motorway or events such as Operation Stack come into the equation. Maidstone Council has two pool

cars and two pool bikes for use by its staff, but reports that usage is very low compared with similar schemes elsewhere in the UK. A number of KCC employees

use Zipcar – a short-term car hire service – to get to and from work and two cars are based at County Hall, with another located in Church Street, which are available to members of the public who sign up to the Zipcar scheme. The 2011 census shows that 15%

of trips to work in Maidstone are 2km or less – walkable for most people – yet only 8% of people opt towalk. “This offers great potential for increasing walking, if the environ- ment is right,” it concludes.

New homes the first of many

THE first Maidstone development has been completed by the Heart of Medway Housing Association. Representatives fromthe company – part of the mhs homes group – are

pictured at the topping-out ceremony of the one- and two-bedroom apartments on the site of the former Maidstone Council offices in Tonbridge Road. The apartments for affordable rent and shared ownership have been

built by The Chartway Group with a £533,000 grant fromthe Homes and Communities Agency. They are part of a £37m investment in new homes by mhs homes across Kent this financial year. Gary Clark, operations director at mhs homes, said the homeswere the

first of seven developments it expects to finish in Maidstone by the end of 2016. The other sites are on the Maidstone Barracks car park, at Langley Park, Eccleston Road, Fairmeadow, Imperial Park and Hermitage Lane.

Future of prison is unclear

THEMinistry of Justice says it is un- able to confirm whether Maidstone Prison will close under plans to shut some of the country’s oldest jails. The prison rebuilding pro- gramme announced by Chancellor George Osborne and Justice Secre- tary MichaelGove will “closeVicto- rian relics of the past on prime sites in city centres”, replacing them with nine detention centres.

26 Maidstone Town Xmas 2015

Maidstone and the area’s women’s prison, East Sutton Park meet this criteria, but a Department of Justice spokesman said while nine new sites had been identified, only Reading had been announced for closure. He added: “I can’t comment on

the situation in Maidstone because what we close will depend on the needs of the prison estate.”


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