UPDATE - Aylesford Newsprint

The planning consultants for the Administrators of this site are intending to put in an outline planning application to Tonbridge and Malling Council during September. This follows two public exhibitions earlier in the year at Church Farm Hall, Larkfield.

This is a "brown field site" shown on the existing approved Local Plan for employment uses and some parts of the site have legal "existing use rights" predating 1947 when planning was generally brought in by Parliament. Government policy also favours reusing brownfield sites so the issues are likely to be around the details of the plan.

It is understood that as shown at the exhibitions most of the site will be proposed for employment purposes but the eastern end for some houses, Despite its name most of the site is in Ditton parish but the main access is currently along Leybourne way, Larkfield.

David Thornewell, Constituency Chairman of the local Lib Dems said,

" The developers say the employment part of the site should end up employing more people than Aylesford newsprint and obviously if some of the site is used for housing it will relieve the pressure to build on greenfield sites elsewhere in the local area. I hope the plans will keep and improve the Ditton stream running through the site as a feature; retain and improve the local public footpaths including the riverside one; address the need for improving disabled and access by children's buggies to New Hythe Station; create some proper cycle links through the site and improve local bus routes. A safer crossing point across to Leybourne Park houses at Bellingham Way also needs action.

It will be the details such as these as well as design and landscaping we will need to make sure TMBC and KCC tie up by conditions and legal agreements as once permission is granted the site will be sold on as the Administrators need to get a capital receipt to pay Aylesford newsprint debts.

Government's "castrated" plan on childhood obesity is a national embarrassment

Norman Lamb's letter to The Times, 19th August 2016

Jeremy Hunt led the country up a hill by promising a "game-changing" response to what has been described by the chief medical officer as a "growing health catastrophe", but the government's "castrated" plan on childhood obesity is a national embarrassment. In failing to clamp down on the aggressive marketing and exploitative promotion of junk food, the government has let the nation down by putting corporate profits before the health of a generation.

Perhaps more remarkable still is the continued reliance on voluntary action to cut the dangerously high levels of sugar in food and drink - an approach that has failed so spectacularly in the past. It is hideously short-sighted of the prime minister to believe that she is putting the economy first. Failing to address this crisis will have a dramatic impact on the economy, the NHS, and those whose lives are blighted by obesity and related illnesses.

What a shame that Theresa May's promise to take bold action on social inequalities should unravel in such disastrous fashion.

Norman Lamb MP is the Liberal Democrat health spokesman and was Health Minister from 2012 to 2015


Put Our Countryside First!

The borough is proposing to allow Kings Hill to spread northwards on part of Broadwater Farm fields and orchards, plus a big new area off Hermitage Lane, including part of the eastern end of the East Malling Research Station.

It also suggests the existing Green Belt be extended eastwards to the West Malling bypass, which was not there to provide a firm boundary when the line was originally drawn some years ago.

When Kings Hill was agreed, it was said it would be kept within the boundaries of the old airfield and I feel that should broadly be honoured. I think that separation between Kings Hill and both East and West Malling should be kept.

I can see the planners' argument for a new area off Hermitage Lane, as it would be near Barming Station and it might be possible to improve the roads by a link down to the A20 and M20.

A big area could raise the money to pay for a road link at a time when KCC has no money for new roads. It does though breach the policy of keeping a "green wedge" between us and Maidstone.

It will be interesting to see what people say and I am sad that government policy no longer values the ordinary countryside. At the end of the day it could be a government inspector who decides, if we are not careful.

Huge Drop in Single-Use Plastic Bag Usage a Lib Dem Success

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."


A view from East Kent

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."


Speedwatch volunteers needed!

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; michelle.tatton@aol.com.

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’.

Aylesford Newsprint

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.

On your bike!

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

TMBC’s Call for Sites

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 trudy.dean@kent.gov.uk Roger Roud rouds@talktalk.net Michelle Tatton michelle.tatton@aol.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

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