‘No dates’ for start on road

improvements HIGHWAYS authority Kent County Council (KCC) admits it has no idea when controversial road “improvements’’ will start. KCC claims the priority remains

the A249 Bearsted Road round- abouts’ enlargement, but there are no dates for the start of work. Meanwhile, the demolition of the Wheatsheaf pub will be the first sign of work on a £5.6m sig- nalised junction at the A274/Loose Road. No work has commenced. The “Keep Maidstone Moving’’ scheme aims to reduce congestion and ease traffic flow on the A20, A26, A229 and A249 especially. A KCC spokesman said: “The priority is starting work on the A249 Bearsted Road and KCC is looking at road space availability to see when other elements of the programme can be delivered. “We are reviewing the delivery programme for work on the Wheatsheaf junction, especially against the backdrop of other schemes that need to be delivered and to fully incorporate feedback from the consultation.”

Pressed for details, a KCC spokesman insisted: “As I said orig- inally, we don't have any dates.”

Cemetery work

WORKS to improve Oakwood Cemetery have been completed. A new entrance to the cemetery,

in Oakapple Lane, just off Her- mitage Lane, was installed, along with footpaths and seating. Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance said:

“This cemetery is an important his- torical landmark for Maidstone and is the final resting place for thousands of patients and staff from the hospital. “It is a beautiful area and these works will hopefully encourage more residents to enjoy it.” The site was initially a cemetery for Oakwood Hospital, a psychi- atric hospital founded in 1833 which, at its peak, cared for over 2,000 patients. It closed in 1994.

Kitchen blaze FIREFIGHTERS tackled an acci-

dental kitchen fire in Hunton. The blaze happened at a house in Lughorse Lane at about 9.30pm on May 26. Three fire engines were sent to the scene. No casualties were reported. A Kent

Fire 26 and Rescue

spokesman said: “It's believed the fire was due to an electrical fault.”

Task force steps up its activity on estate

KENT Police’s use of stop and search powers increased by almost 60% last year, focusing on an area of Maidstone where fear of crime is rising.

The number of challenges car- ried out by officers county-wide increased by 57% last year – an av- erage of 1,131 every month in 2020, compared with 717 in 2019. Since October last year, the

newly-created Maidstone Task Force has stopped and searched 253 people on the Shepway estate. The body is made up of Kent Po-

lice, councils and other interested bodies such as housing associa- tions. Of 100 arrests made on the estate, 29 charges were brought for possession of class A drugs, han- dling stolen goods, theft, assault and criminal damage. Twenty-four offenders were re- called to prison or placed before the courts, while five resulted in cautions or fixed penalty notices. The task force claims to be on the estate every day, although Kent Police has repeatedly refused to disclose to Downs Mail the level of policing on the ground. Former Shepway south borough councillor Eddie Powell, pictured

here days after an alleged kinife in- cident in March, is a long-term critic of policing on the estate. He said: “I was aware of the task force … but we have yet to see a reduc- tion in antisocial behaviour. An ar- rest doesn't necessarily result in a charge. You could arrest 500 peo- ple but then only charge 40, of which three may get a custodial sentence. The residents I repre- sented wanted charges and sen- tences fitting the crime, not just Kent Police bragging how well

they’re doing. These reassurances from the task force, while wel- come, did not reflect evidence on the ground.”

Inspector Steve Kent, of the Maidstone Community Safety Unit, said: “Officers and our part- ners have been very visible within the community, working to make Shepway a safe place to live, work and visit. “We have been bringing offenders to justice, reporting sus- pects and offering support, advice and guidance where required.”

Daily life in a

new musical A MUSICAL about the lives of everyday people in Maid- stone is coming to the Hazlitt Theatre next month. Ordinary People, a show written

by award-winning MP opens new McDonalds

A NEW McDonald's restaurant and drive-through has opened in Snodland. The branch of the fast-food chain, on the A228 Holborough Road, opened its doors on June 2. There was local opposition to the plans, with dozens of objections lodged with the local authority in advance of the planning decision. MP Tracey Crouch said: “I was thrilled to open the new McDonald's in Snodland. They've already recruited around 50 crew and are in process of recruiting another 50, many of whom are local. “We had a good chat about litter, something that I know upsets many, and how they can get more involved in the Snodland community.” Franchisee Paul Crocker said: “We are delighted to be opening a new

restaurant in Snodland, bringing additional jobs to the town. “As a business, we are passionate about the communities we serve in

and we look forward to playing our part as a good neighbour in Snodland.” The restaurant features self-service kiosks, digital menu boards and an app, which allows customers to order and pay in advance.

composer and lyricist Darren Clark, will run between July 30 -31.

The performance will fea- ture a mixture of professional actor musicians, the Hazlitt Youth Theatre, The Hazlitt Dance Company and The Ha- zlitt Choir, and will be di- rected by Jenny Longley. A Hazlitt spokesman said:

“It's a show that explores the extraordinary nature of our everyday lives and reveals that all of us have a story that's worth telling.”

To book, go to www.park- Theatre.

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