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MBC Councillor Patrik Garten’s Latest Newsletter – August 2023

Cllr Patrik Garten 1

August 2023

Starting with an old tradition of my August newsletter I will ask you to take part in another consultation.  Residents and businesses are invited to have their say on Maidstone Borough Council’s (MBC) spending priorities for next year 2024/2025.

Unlike many of our neighbours and County, Maidstone’s finances are in a satisfactory condition.  For the current year we set a balanced budget, and overall income and expenditure are within budget.  Your feedback from last year’s survey was fed into the budget process.

Looking further ahead, the financial outlook across the country is uncertain.  Inflation remains high and this naturally affects also what we pay for the services we deliver to residents.  At the same time, we are limited in the ways we can raise money to cover our costs.  We also plan to fund an ambitious capital programme which includes delivery of 1,000 new affordable homes to rent in the Borough.

This means that we may have to make some difficult decisions in the near future so that we can set a balanced budget for 2024/25.  Before we do this, we would like to hear your views, which are important to us as they help councillors making decisions about how best to spend your taxes, and how we can raise money in the first place.

Please complete the short survey by 28 August.  The survey takes about 3 to 6 minutes to complete: https://letstalkmaidstone.uk.engagementhq.com/budget-consultation-2023

                                                            Local Plan

The Plan review is taking shape.  As I previously reported, the Local Plan is our most valuable legal tool to avoid unwanted housing in the most inappropriate places.  The trade-off will be that the government expects us to build a certain number of houses to combat the national housing shortage.

After the council decides on the plan, it has to be tested to check that it is legally sound.  This was undertaken by an independent inspector who  has now issued the Council with his Post Hearings letter.  This is now available on the Local Plan mini-web-site, and by clicking the link below:

Maidstone Local Plan review – ED117 Letter to MBC Post Stage 2 050723

The letter is very positive and is another important step forward in heading toward adoption of the plan.  The next key stage will be consultation on the Inspectors Main Modifications which go through our committee process in August and commence in early September.

The Inspector has found the overall spatial strategy sound at both stages of the review.  Notwithstanding this, and despite the very valiant efforts of our officers, some points were made by the inspector.  As I reported last month, the Inspector accepted that we should deal with the Gypsy and Traveller need via a separate policy document on which we have already commenced working.

The Inspector is happy with our work to date on key infrastructure around matters such as transport and education, which is an achievement given the scale and complexity of the plan.  Moreover, he is content that, despite a slight shortfall at the end of the plan period, we will not need to identify any further housing sites during this review period. 

We had originally requested that the Leeds=Langley corridor will get ‘safeguarded area’ status to plan for a future relief road.  Regrettably, this was dismissed by the inspector but he has agreed that we should keep a ‘policy hook’ in the plan to assist us with putting together proposals for this area going forward.

All things going to plan, the Inspector’s modifications will go to public consultation this autumn, and hopefully the Conservatives will get enough support across the party spectrum at full council to pass the Plan early next year.  Any other outcome will be disaster for the people of Maidstone.  Being without a valid local plan will open the floodgates to uncontrolled development.  Playing politics at this point may appear to be an attractive points- scoring opportunity to some opposition parties, in view of next May’s elections, but it will be a bloody dangerous stance to take!  Without a Local Plan Maidstone will get all the housing proposed in the plan PLUS many more.

Domestic Abuse

Anyone who needs support and advice around domestic abuse is invited to come along to The Maidstone One Stop Shop at Trinity House, 20 Church St, ME14 1LY every Tuesday between 9.30am and 11.30am.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone, our One Stop Shop is there for everyone who needs help.  It  is a free, confidential drop-in service and provides support to anyone who is currently experiencing or has already experienced domestic abuse.  Help is available from specially trained professionals around safety planning, signposting to legal advice, housing and emotional wellbeing.

For anyone experiencing domestic abuse who needs to talk to someone urgently please call:

            Victim Support on: 0808 1689 111

            Clarion: 0737 663 7069

            www.domesticabuseservices.org.uk

If you are in danger please call 999 immediately

Kent Community Warden

It is not a Maidstone Council issue, but I see that Kent County Council is holding a Service Review and Public Consultation about their valuable Community Wardens.

Have your say at:  kent.gov.uk/communitywardenreview

Consultation open from 12 July to 3 October 2023.

The Maidstone Innovation Centre

The MIC is a Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) initiative, which offers flexible working space, offices, meeting rooms and conference facilities to businesses working in the life science, healthcare and medical sectors.

The Maidstone Innovation Centre (MIC) has welcomed its newest tenant Michelson Diagnostics Ltd – world-leading imaging technology experts, who have created VivoSight, a powerful and versatile skin-imaging tool used in hospitals and labs for skin cancer diagnosis and also for research into many other skin disease treatments and cosmetics.  It gives scientists and clinicians access to valuable information about the skin that is not readily available by other means.  Michelson Diagnostics Ltd  are joining an expanding list of companies who have chosen to base themselves Maidstone’s state of the art facilities.

And finally … there are lots of wonderful events planned in Maidstone throughout this summer – too many to mention them all here but you can browse them at: www.maidstoneWhatson.com

 

PATRIK GARTEN      

MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward  (Conservative)

Phone: 01622-807907