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Fruit farm thefts MORE than £6,000 worth of fruit has been stolen from Kent farms - including one report in the Maid- stone area. Officers have received reports

that strawberries and cherries have been stolen from various farms in- cluding at Kenward Road, Yalding. It was reported that around

£2,000 worth of fruitwas stolen be- tween July 26 and 27. Therewere three reported thefts

near Tonge, on July 19, 22 and 26. It is reported that around £1,600

worth of fruit was stolen. Officers are also investigating a reported theft in Faversham, where around £2,400 of soft fruit was stolen in July. PC Marc Pennicott of the Rural

Task Force, said: “These thefts are all very similar so we believe they may be linked.” Contact police on 01795 419119 quoting reference XY/27859/16.

Friends need you

THE League of Friends at Maid- stone Hospital is in urgent need of volunteers to staff its hospital shop, host the trolley service, man its busy tea bar and sell books. If you can spare a few hours a week, call Jacqui on 01622 224781. Money raised by the Friends is used to buy medical equipment and make im- provements.

Councils join to take on Royal Mail’s site

THERoyal Mail site in the centre of Maidstone has been bought jointly by Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council. DownsMail understands the price

tag was somewhere between £4.5m and £6m, according to awell-placed source. The former Maidstone mail centre

and delivery office site in Sandling Road will be replaced by a “land- mark” mixed-use development in- cluding retail space, homes, offices, increased parking and an improved interchange between buses, trains and taxis. The purchase of the 3.5-acre site, to

be completed in September, will “create a better place and it is also a great business opportunity for both councils”. According to a joint statement:

“The two authorities will seek to produce a master plan for the site. It is hoped that as this develops, they will be able to promote collaboration with other landowners in the vicin- ity, whichwould form the basis for a broader scheme encompassing

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Maidstone East railway station and the former Old Vic pub. “The masterplan is expected to

take three to five years to complete. Consultants will be appointed to en- sure that the scheme is as attractive as possible to private sector partners and is welcomed and supported by residents and local businesses.” Cllr FranWilson, leader of Maid-

stone Borough Council, said: “This is a strategically important regener- ation project and by working in part- nership to purchase the site we can secure the best outcome for the county town. “The area has been an eyesore for

a number of years. Working together we can create something that resi-

dents will be proud of and which will bring the jobs and homes that the town needs.” Gary Cooke, KCC’s cabinet mem-

ber for corporate and democratic Services and a local Maidstone member said: “Kent County Coun- cil is keen to see and help promote schemes that benefit and promote Kent as a great place to live, to work and to have fun. "Maidstone is our county town

and should reflect values and lifestyles that we wish to promote throughout Kent. The regeneration of the Maidstone East area provides a unique opportunity to do exactly that and in away that also provides financial benefit to the county’s ratepayers.” “Our property team has been working on this scheme with col- leagues from Maidstone ever since Royal Mail took the decision to mar- ket the site and I amdelighted to see all those efforts come to fruition.” AKCCspokesman refused to dis-

close the price tag, which it claims is commercially sensitive.

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