November 2018 Newsletter from our Borough Councillor.

Hollingbourne Parish Council has received the followings newsletter from Maidstone Borough Councillor Patrik Garten who represents Hollingbourne.

Dear Residents

I just survived an interesting(-ly shocking) month of committees and workshops.

Like in my previous two newsletters, I shall continue writing about Maidstone’s new Strategic Plan, which is taking a lot of my time at the moment.

The Strategic Plan will essentially be the guide for officers to prioritise their efforts. The previously mentioned mental kite-flying exercise, which councillors had in August, is now been dwindled down to a three page document with eight key points, – – or, if our group has its way, even six headlines only.

I get the impression that our Group is slightly more pro-active than the others in formulating our vision. Perhaps not surprising, when I hear that the other Groups get slightly lost or entangled in too much detail. The Strategic Plan is supposed to look at outcomes, how we can improve our Borough, rather than an action plan, which would inevitably seek to micro-manage officers.

Whether we end up with 8, 7 or even six key points is fairly irrelevant, considering that many issues are cross-cutting each other. I am sure that we will find an acceptable cross-party consensus soon. The questions, which may cause more debate, will be how much detail shall be placed under each headline. Liberal Cllr D. Mortimer for example proposed that all visions shall be accompanied with the adjective “progressive”. One of our members countered (tongue in cheek) that “conservative” may be a better word. The fun goes on…

You can have your own say with this survey: https://wh.snapsurveys.com/s.asp?k=153778342540

The Strategic Plan is expected to be ratified by Full Council in December.

I’ve been your councillor for over two years now. During my election campaign and every now and then, I hear talk about the great “Maidstone conspiracies”. I have news for you, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as conspiracy ! It’s called incompetence:

There will be delays to the rebuild of the Mote Park Visitors Centre. All clever brains, expensive architects and consultants were hired to design a brand new centre with coffee shop and sports changing rooms. They came to us 55 councillors and showed off with their great designs – And we were suitably impressed. The project was given the green light.

Half way through the job, somebody suddenly scratched their head and asked where the facilities for the disabled are? (A statutory requirement.) This had been completely overlooked in the original plans. The additional cost will be circa £80k.
– Sorry, but your local member doesn’t spot everything. I certainly will learn my personal lesson and will be even more critical in future.

I already had my first chance this month:

South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) administers government grants, which are allocated for seven key highways improvements, particularly along the A229. A verbal only report was presented by an MBC officer at Strategic Planning and Sustainable Transportation Committee.
I asked for the progress in obtaining the envisaged £10.35 million, which we are expecting from SELEP.
We were told that no business case has been prepared yet. The deadline for presenting the business case is November 16. I couldn’t believe my ears !
Same committee: We were asked to ratify a consultative letter to a neighbouring authority. In this letter we urged the other authority to refrain from Article 4 Directions. An Art. 4 direction is the cancellation of permitted development rights, meaning that a property owner must apply for planning permission, where (s)he normally would not have to.
– next agenda item: impose an Article 4 direction in Maidstone Town Centre ! Do as we say, don’t do as we do ?
We only approved our Local Plan 12 months ago. This motion would throw a whole bag of spanners into it. Actually, this proposal was quickly dismissed by all but one committee members. All but one Liberal members voted against it. – This should have been the end of it.
– Not in Maidstone !
The Liberals called-in the decision, to be reviewed by a special meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee. Such a special meeting incurs quite a significant cost to the Council, likely in excess of £1000. No new evidence was provided. However Cllr Clark (Lib) proposed that members should be given the opportunity to “take the right decision”
– Doesn’t this remind you a bit of the recent Brexit debate ? –
The vote was much closer this time: all Liberal members voted for the Art 4 direction, even those, who opposed it first time around. Nonetheless the motion was narrowly defeated……thanks to a particular independent councillor getting stuck in traffic.
Maybe we really don’t need the £10.35 million road improvement after all …..?
And finally:
Maidstone secretly found a cunning new way to make money: The Public Protection Order, as ratified last year. Newly elected Councillor Purle pointed out that it states:

“… a person who fails without reasonable excuse to do anything that is prohibited by this order […] is liable to a fine”
– you can’t win…

PATRIK GARTEN
MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward

Email: patrikgarten@maidstone.gov.uk
Phone: 01622-807907

Postscript.

The Hollingbourne Meadows Trust are working in partnership with the Leeds Hollingbourne and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, to plant an “Avenue of Remembrance”, with 100 trees to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.

The trees will be planted in 4 lines of 25, with a “Circle of Peace” in the middle of the Avenue.

The Hawthorn tree was chosen from a long list of trees native to the Kent country side as it best embodies and personifies the soldier and comrades that so valiantly marched into battle to defend our liberties.

On 11 November 2018 (Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday) the first phase of Project 100 will be opened at 2pm.

A service of dedication will be conducted by Rev Paul Kite. The Mayor will be attending.

You are all invited to attend, commemorate the Centenary of the end of the First World War and support Project 100.

Access via Culpepper Close, Hollingbourne

Pictured below is Councillor Garten.

Councillor Patrik Garten in March 2018.