Plastic bag usage has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, under the previous coalition government.
The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has fallen by more than 85%. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge but this has been reduced to just over 500m in the first six months after the charge has been introduced.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:
"We always said the test of this policy would be by the amounts of bags that are cut from public consumption and the funds raised for charities - on both these tests this policy has passed.
"I want to pay tribute to Kate Parminter who fought tirelessly for this policy and today's figures are a testament to her. It is down to Liberal Democrats in Government that this policy happened - we announced it at our 2013 conference and we are now seeing what a huge impact it has had.
"The facts are simple; single use bags blight our towns and countryside, they trap and suffocate wildlife, and plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade. These figures show that this policy is starting to stop that."
Rumours of Kent Districts merging to form Unitary Authorities have been around for years (some with decent evidence, some with less). This week there are press reports of another attempt: this time for an East Kent and Channel authority incorporating Shepway, Thanet, Canterbury, Ashford and Dover.
Shepway Lib Dem campaigner Tim Prater has been at different times a County, District and Town Councillor in Shepway and remains a Parish Councillor in Sandgate. Tim says:
"Having served on all the different tiers of Council in Kent it's clear that there is duplication between Councils, and huge frustration and often buck-passing between them. Residents generally don't know which Council provides what service, and from time to time it seems the Councils aren't sure either.
"Although the key argument for a Kent wide authority is the economies of scale, I've rarely seen a convincing argument that those economies couldn't be found simply by Councils working together better. Kent County Council and the District Councils all claim they do this from time to time, but the attempts to do so are generally pretty half-hearted.
"Service provision is decided at too high a level: the County Council decides what school provision there should be, where recycling centres are, which roads to resurface, and the Town and Parish Councils that often know their patch best get little say. District Councils routinely dismiss or ignore the opinion of Town and Parish Councils on planning applications in their areas.
"Overall I'm open to discussions of unitary authorities if it gives greater power to customise local services to Town and Parish Councils, and actually listens to what they have to say on the development of their area. School provision, road programmes and youth service provision discussed with and informed by Towns and Parishes. An assumption that a Town or Parish view on a Planning application is important, rather than just one of many. Services that can be varied: the rubbish collection service in one street let alone Parish may need to be different to that in the neighbouring one.
"A Unitary Authority that had services that could be varied by Towns and Parishes - and even encouraged it - would see much better local services, decision making and happier residents. However, given the general resistance to change in these things by the Councils involved, I'm not holding my breath - or assuming if it does go ahead it'll be more than a shuffling of the chairs between Councils with new names but much the current attitude."
Cllr Trudy Dean, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Kent County and the Larkfield North Borough Councillor commented and said: "TMBC is not pressing for any devolved powers but taking part in talks with KCC, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks about working together to improve services."
Speeding is a problem in many communities and sadly East Malling is no exception. During one of our recent Surgeries at the East Malling Centre we were asked to look at what might be done to curb speeding on Clare Lane. A few years ago, County Councillor Trudy Dean funded changes to the speed limit but problems with speeding traffic persist.
We will be conducting a survey of local residents in the near future but meanwhile we are interested in conducting Speed Watch in Clare Lane and potentially at other village locations. The Parish Council has all the necessary equipment, having been involved in the Speed Watch scheme for some time. Before new sites can be added these must be formally approved by the Police. In addition, the scheme can only work well if there are sufficient volunteers.
If you are interested in volunteering for Speed Watch across East Malling, or in Larkfield if you live there, please email Michelle Tatton at; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Training will be provided, possibly on a Saturday morning and probably at Church Farm, New Hythe Lane.
You can find out more about Speed Watch here.
KCC has been forced to admit that turning off street lights after midnight was a mistake. A total of 64% of replies to the consultation chose a return to all night lighting. So over the next 14 months KCC teams will continue to convert street lights to LED. These will be connected to a central point which will control each light remotely. This allows for more flexibility to meet the needs of each street and means that the level of light emitted for each lamp may vary. Contractors will be assessing all areas to ensure the lighting levels will be right at all times for pedestrians to feel safe and be able to see kerbs, faces, hedges and dog mess! Trudy welcomes the return to all night lighting as a ‘victory for common sense’.
The 100 acres of Aylesford Newsprint is another site that has come forward as part of the "Call for sites" process of the Local Plan Review. The liquidators have appointed planning consultants and proposals are now emerging for a mixed commercial / housing site as liquidators must realise the assets to pay off people owed money when the site shut. The site is not without problems such as access, contaminated land, and being crossed by Ditton Stream, to name a few. However as a brown field site, favoured by the Government for housing, if some of it was released for homes it would reduce the pressure to build on local green field sites. UPDATE: At the time of going to print two exhibitions of provisional proposals for the site were due to take place and we understand that a further exhibition will be arranged in due course.
Maidstone BC is promoting a comprehensive network of cycle routes out of the town. The Parish was surprised to find that North Pole Road and the old Teston Road opposite North Pole Public House is a potential cycle route out from Barming, with the idea of closure of North Pole road to traffic being considered. There appears to have been no local consultation and the Parish Council is in touch with TMBC, and KCC about it about it
We have previously reported on the sites put forward by landowners and developers for housing across the Borough as part of Government procedure (we would need a whole newsletter if we were to tell you about each site!) We are waiting for TMBC’s planners to consult on their response to each site.
It is clear this is very much a "numbers game" as the Borough will have to o satisfy the Inspector in due course that enough land has been allocated for houses up to 2031. This includes sites such Leybourne Grange and Peters Pit, Wouldham. It is why brownfield sites, such as Aylesford Newsprint, are important together with any smaller sites where development would not spoil the area. Trudy Dean email@example.com Roger Roud firstname.lastname@example.org Michelle Tatton email@example.com, we were alarmed to see the whole of East Malling Research Station on the map and were equally concerned to hear the very recent announcement that EMR had been taken over by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, saving EMR from potential administration. While NIAB say operations will continue at East Malling the future of the site remains a worry, with a likely loss of some jobs in the near future.
The other big site is Broadwater Farm which runs from Well Street to New Barns and across the bypass up to the boundaries of Manor Park and St Leonards Street. Its release for housing would remove the green wedge of countryside separating East and West Malling from Kings Hill. The Conservation Areas would also be undermined and the setting of the listed buildings within them. It is annoying and confusing that it is labelled Kings Hill on the Call for Sites map. Land should be called by its local name and not re-badged in this way. There is also local concern about the field forming part of the Malling School playing fields next to Winterfield lane, parts of Forty Acres between the A20 and Winterfield lane and Lucks Hill, and the site of the East Malling Centre/Woodland’s Children’s Centre in Chapman Way.
There is clearly a need nationally for more homes, including in Tonbridge and Malling, but if East and West Malling are to keep their identities local residents and amenity groups have a real fight on their hands
On 4th and 5th March a hardy band of volunteers turned out to help clear litter and fly-tipping in the village. Michelle Tatton, who co-ordinated the effort, says ‘We had a brilliant few days tidying up various parts of the village including in and around the playing fields on New Road, the verge between Dickens Drive and the A20, and the area around Clare Lake. Thank you to everyone who took part - you did a terrific job!’ There will be more volunteering events organised soon - if you would like to be kept up to date with events please contact Michelle who is maintaining.
East Malling Hotline editor, Michelle Tatton and Cllr Roger Roud.
From 6 April 2016 the law concerning dogs and microchips is changing.
This new law will state that all dogs, over the age of 8 weeks, will be required to have been implanted with a working microchip and that up to date contact details of their owners are available on a registered database.
If the microchip and contact details are not in place dog owners could face a fine of up to £500!
The change in law has been put in place to try and reduce the number of stray dogs that cannot be reunited with their owners due to there being no way of identifying who the dog belongs to. It is already a legal requirement to make sure that a dog is wearing a collar and ID tag when in a public place, which includes if it strays from a private property and onto public land.
Leader of the Lib Dems on Tonbridge and Malling Borough and Larkfield South Borough Councillor, Anita Oakley and a keen supporter of the dogs trust said “Micro chipping is a very sensible way forward. Many of us really value our pets and this is an excellent way of ensuring that if the worst happens and we lose them we can be swiftly reunited with our dog”
“If a dog cannot be returned to its owners quickly it will have to stay in kennels, with fees mounting. This is frustrating for all concerned, especially owners when presented with a bill for their dogs unplanned stay at kennels. This new legislation requires owners to keep contact details up to date with the microchip company, or face a fine. So if you are moving home, sell your dog or give them to someone else, don’t forget to update your details.
Running up to the new legislation being introduced, some veterinary practices around the country have been offering free or reduced cost microchipping. Check with your local vet to find out more about this as they may have special offers available.
Under the new laws, there are also penalties if someone who is not authorised by a qualified vet tries to implant a microchip. Database companies will also be penalised if they fail to update and keep accurate records. The full legislation can be read online under The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 and can be found here:www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2015/9780111125243
Tim Farron made clear that secure, affordable housing is a core Liberal Democrat commitment.
We believe that every individual, regardless of income, employment, social class, or family circumstance, has a right to safe, affordable accommodation. That is why we have opposed the new ‘Right to Buy’ scheme that will deprive communities of housing stock without adequate replacements to meet current demand.
George Osborne’s Autumn Statement pays lip-service to making housing available to all but, in typical Osborne fashion, it only takes a small look at the detail to see that this is hot air. Prioritising properties for those who can already afford to take out mortgages and put down big deposits does not help make housing available to all. Neither does defining £250,000 as affordable or reducing the obligations on property developers to provide an adequate level affordable housing in new developments.
There are 1.6 million people on housing waiting lists right now, and building “affordable” houses that you’ll need a £50,000 annual salary to afford is not going to make that list any shorter!
We need this government to take affordable housing seriously. We need local authorities to take affordable housing seriously. As a Liberal Democrat, I am appalled by the complacency of this government in the face of a housing crisis that is putting a secure and suitable home out of reach of so many men and women in our country.
If you agree, and would like to stand with the Liberal Democrats as we keep up the fight for better housing for all, join us!