The following monthly news letter has been received from the Maidstone Borough Councillor who represents the area which includes Hollingbourne.
“You politicians ! ….” and this is usually followed by a barrage of abuses and misconceptions, which your local Monkey has to endure. MBC Councillors’ remunerations have recently been addressed by an independent panel. This panel found that we are working on average 12 hours per week and our remuneration should approximately reflect the minimum wage, before tax. I can assure you that I spend easily twice that time, struggling to barely keep abreast of the basics. There is no extra pay. On the contrary, as the sole councillor of one of the biggest wards by area, I don’t even get paid travel expenses for ward visits nor parish council attendance. I easily spend £50 a month on diesel for those trips. While my urban colleagues can walk their ward in 20 minutes end to end, I couldn’t even drive across my ward in half an hour. If you feed peanuts, you get ….. councillors?
The last month I had an unusual workload of planning (and other legal) objections. Most of these issues stem from activities by “new kids on the block”. (These I define as residents who moved into the North Downs within the past six years.) Often there is the dream of living in the countryside, slowing down from the city life and utilising the potential of the new, big house and adjoining land.
Those dreams are certainly not objectionable in principle, but once LED floodlights go up and planning applications get filed, all sorts of alarm bells are being set off in the hamlet. If possible, your Councillor tries to double as counsellor in order to restore community peace. Administrative law is no substitute for a good neighbourly talk and early neighbourhood consultation.
You may have struggled recently to find certain items, like statutory documents, on the MBC website. This is being blamed (as usual) on the new website. I was told that during the next few months IT will be introducing a new site search tool, which is more powerful than the existing one. The new search function should make all documents far easier to find. Currently I find it more successful to use an external search engine like Google or Startpage to find hidden items on the MBC website.
The review of the Local Plan for 2021 is gaining pace: Regular readers may remember that I previously said that not much happens at MBC during August. Not so in 2018: We will start the month with four consecutive evenings of members’ workshops. Our party will also spend a whole sunny Sunday in a stuffy hall debating our policies. I am sure that the other groups may hold similar meetings too. It may be fair to say that there is little appetite across the political spectrum for further dispersal of new housing across rural villages nor for urban expansion.
Theoretically we could think outside the box and take the decision to regress Maidstone. Turn the town into an unattractive dump where nobody in their right mind would want to live nor work. Somehow I cannot see a political mandate for such a position. Any other direction will unfortunately impose another 7500 residential units upon us. This figure is derived from a national formula that is imposed upon local authorities by central government. Where will we put them? How will communities cope with even more ‘new kids on the block’? Interesting times ahead…
The Strategic Planning Committee agreed to put the draft Statement of Community Involvement 2018 out for consultation. I made sure that the 2013 SCI can be easily found on the MBC website via its search function. Watch this space for further announcements.
The town centre will soon become a Business Improvement District. A BID is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area. Businesses will pay an additional levy based on the rateable value of their property. The BID will generate an income of approximately £2.15m over its initial five-year term. The BID will promote Maidstone in new ways. Car parking, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, finding a better synergy between the town centre and Maidstone’s heritage are some of their targets.
MBC are seeking views on the specific dog control measures to combat irresponsible dog-owner behaviour. In the North Downs this may be specifically relevant to Stockbury & Wormshill:
Enjoy the summer.
MBC’s Monkey for North Downs Ward
Pictured below is Councillor Garten.