window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date());gtag('config', 'G-4J7CECC45W');Maidstone BC - Councillor Patrik Garten's Newsletter - 6th March 2024 | Hollingbourne Parish Council
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Maidstone BC – Councillor Patrik Garten’s Newsletter – 6th March 2024

Cllr Patrik Garten 1


Nationally and internationally shopping habits have shifted tremendously in the past 10 years, leading to town centres changing in character.  Regrettably we see many quality shops and larger chains closing.  Again this affects many towns and cities as we see long established national chains going out of business and their space being taken by charity shops, vape shops and betting shops. 

These problems are not new and by no means unique to Maidstone.  For better or worse we do not live in communism and therefore the authorities cannot prescribe what shops should and should not open in Maidstone.  The council has only very limited powers, mainly under licensing laws, to restrict and control certain types of shops, like pubs and gambling places.

The current Conservative administration at MBC is working very hard not only to stop the decline of the town centre, but by devising a strategy how to make Maidstone more attractive and future proof.  Our work encompasses small things as well as more complex plans for the future.  For example you may have noticed our new planters with beautiful flowers popping up in many places along the pedestrianised zone.  More elaborate greening and lighting strategies are currently being prepared for later in the year. 

Our Environmental Services clean the town centre daily, and on a Sunday morning you will have trouble spotting any trash from the previous night’s partying.  The MBC Environmental Protection Team, in conjunction with the police and the security officers from the BID (Business Improvement District) work hard to tackle the scourge of anti-social behaviour.  For that, we now close Brenchley Gardens at night and established a manned sub-police station in that park, by converting the old toilet block. 

My personal pet hate of anti-social behaviour is the illegal motor-traffic in the High Street.  I lobbied long and hard for ANPR enforcement cameras to stop this dangerous behaviour in the pedestrian zone.  I received assurances from the County Highways Authorities that we are considered to receive this vital enforcement tool in the not too distant future.  Long term we are engaging with businesses to alleviate the decline of shopping facilities by bringing new attractions into the town centre, mainly in the entertainment and hospitality sector.  Only last week we agreed at cabinet, to provide a permanent maker-space for creative businesses and artists. I can’t give away too much now, but the plans are exciting and will be taken to committee before the elections.

Maidstone’s heart must be accessible to all residents of the Borough and visitors from afar in order to be viable and to enhance the offer by increasing the footfall in the town centre.  The Conservative members of MBC are therefore the only party who is committed to freeze parking charges in order to support local businesses. 



I wholly agree that this is a problem, a very disgusting one indeed !  A sociologist may be better suited to answer why society’s standards are slipping.  I, however, like to point out that during February things look even worse and are perceived worse.  Especially after the recent rainy and windy months, vegetation cover is reduced and the detritus is far more visible and wider spread.  However, I can absolutely state that the amount of money spent on waste collection has NOT been reduced and will not be reduced in next years budget.  The Street-Scene Team, is responsible within the Maidstone Borough Council and elected councillors hold them to account for carrying out this work effectively and on a regular basis.  As cabinet member for Environmental Services, I hold regular talks with the lead officers, who present KPI data to me and to all councillors during committee.

I also go out with the teams on occasion and personally follow up complaints, which are raised with me or my fellow councillors.  As I mentioned in previous newsletters, last summer we recruited a waste crime team with an extremely competent team leader who has many year’s of police background.  Only a few weeks ago we allocated £40,000 to them in capital investment to purchase crime-fighting equipment, eg CCTV.  As soon as national government permitted local authorities to increase fines for fly-tipping and littering, I instructed my officers to implement those fines, which came into force in October last year. Littering along a trunk road will now attract a fixed penalty of £500 or an unlimited fine. The waste crime team welcomes any CCTV and photographic evidence, which can assist us in pursuing a prosecution.


Recently, you may have come across the headline ”FOI request shows that MBC hasn’t prosecuted anyone for fly tipping during the last three years”.  Firstly this FOI request deals with data up to March 2023.  As I said above, our Waste Crime Team expanded immensely since last summer.  And even prior, since January 2021, MBC Waste Crime Team have investigated 103 offences of waste crime where we have been able to recover evidence.  We generated £26000 in fixed penalty notice fines. 


So why does this FOI request make such bad reading?  Because a fixed penalty is not a prosecution.  A prosecution is where a case goes to court.  Under previous legislation it was not in MBC’s interest to prosecute in the courts because this would have cost us money to bring the case and any fine would have gone to Central Government.  Since October 2023 legislation changed significantly and we have access to the proceeds of crime as well as any court imposed fines.Currently we have 25 live cases under investigation for prosecution and we are seeking forfeiture of any vehicles involved in those crimes.  This includes a 32 ton tipper lorry.  As I mentioned before, a  large proportion of fly-tippers are commercial rogue operations.  Since 1st January 2024, we have also dealt with over 40 abandoned vehicles; that is one abandoned vehicle each working day!

Finally, Kent County Council is the Highways Authority.  They must be consulted when our (MBC) crews litter-pick trunk roads.  It is KCC who will have to put lane closures in place to protect our staff.  These operations are therefore often conducted in conjunction with other works, scheduled road-closures (eg construction) or grass cutting, the latter is also KCC’s responsibility.  Unfortunately experience shows that, within 24 hour after a thorough litter sweep, the verges are already cluttered with detritus again.  I am extremely frustrated to see our hard working crews fighting a literally never-ending wave of litter, day after day.  I hope that you will take some comfort in our commitment to take on the fight.  The current Conservative administration at MBC has no plans to cut the funding for our Street Scene Department and we assured an inflation-adjusted funding in next year’s budget, which was passed last week.  



You may be aware that a speculative planning application was filed a few months ago, to build another business park on the strip of land East of LOC8 / Woodcut Farm.  Because we have a local plan and this site was not in the local plan, I always considered this as a non-starter and made representations accordingly.  MBC rightfully refused the application.  MBC’s refusal went to appeal and wiser people than me were less optimistic.  I am happy to announce that the appeal inspector gave great weight to our local plan and the impact of the application site on the AONB.  The inspector dismissed the appeal.  We can assume that in the foreseeable future Hollingbourne will be safe from speculative planning applications.





MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward  (Conservative)

Cabinet Member for Environmental Services


Phone: 01622-807907