News Council cuts

COUNTY councillors face a 5% cut in their basic allowances in the face of the financial strain placed on the authority by the Covid-19 pan- demic.

Kent County Council’s 81 elected members had earlier awarded themselves a 4.2% rise. With the cut, the members will contribute £55,000 towards almost £13m in spending reductions.

Sewell’s post

CANON Andrew Sewell has been appointed as the new Archdeacon of Maidstone. The priest in charge at St Paul’s since 2010 and area dean for the county town took up his position last month. He replaces Venerable Stephen Taylor, who left to become Archdeacon and senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Dover.

Concerts off

MAIDSTONE Wind Symphony has dropped plans for any further concerts because of Coronavirus. Season tickets for 2020 will re- main valid for the first quarter of 2021.

‘Streamlined’ housing consultation agreed

PUBLIC comments on proposed village communities and hundreds of housing developments are to be invited by Maidstone Borough Council.

This was agreed for a second time, subject to full council ap- proval on September 30, at a lively strategic planning and infrastruc- ture committee meeting. Some members wanted to by- pass public consultation because it could delay progress on the Local Plan Review and time Maidstone into a new Government methodol- ogy for fixing housing targets. This could lead to Maidstone having to build an extra 5,325 houses in the period up to 2037. The annual target would rise from 1,214 to potentially 1,569. Government is talking of transi- tional arrangements for councils well advanced on Local Plan Re- views and Maidstone hopes to benefit and avoid or delay the new methodology. But cancelling local

consultation with statutory and other significant bodies as well as the general public has dangers. A Government inspector exam- ines all Local Plans and could refuse approval due to lack of con- sultation, creating serious delays for Maidstone. The council would also miss out on public comments. At its previous meeting, the com- mittee decided to cut local consul- tation from six to three weeks. Now it has agreed there must be consultation, it is asking officers to streamline the process to try to achieve close to six weeks to enable time for meaningful contributions. Several councillors criticised

Government proposals and said there was no evidence that extra numbers reduced house prices. Committee chairman Cllr David

Burton said slow delivery of hous- ing was not down to local authori- ties but in hands of developers. He felt Government was setting a test for councils with “failure built in”. Cllr Burton added: “Such in- flated housing numbers are not practical and we feel they should be reduced. These are targets we’re not sure even the developers could deliver – which would result in us being penalised with even more housing. It’s crazy.” l MAIDSTONE and the Weald MP, Helen Grant, is one of 10 Kent MPs who have signed a let- ter to the housing secretary of state calling on Government to think again on its housing de- mands concreting over the south of England and causing distress for residents.

Supporting sight-impaired for 100 years

KENT Association for the Blind (KAB) is celebrating its century this year. KAB recently took part in the Love

Your Eyes campaign, to raise aware- ness of the importance of regular eye checks. KAB’s chief executive, Eithne

Rynne said: “Regular eye tests can detect eye conditions and other health problems in the early stages.” KAB was initially set up to support blinded soldiers returning from World War I, but the charitable foun- dation continues to support people

with a sight impairment to lead in- dependent lives. KAB spokesman Karen Mitchell

said: “Even during these difficult times, KAB is continuing to support the most vulnerable and isolated. “We may not have been able to

celebrate our 100th anniversary as we would have liked, but we are humbled by the support we’ve re- ceived. We look forward to celebrat- ing into 2021.” Find out about the campaign at

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