Sunday, 22 December 2013

Maidstone does not need 13,000 unaffordable new homes - 22nd December 2013

Maidstone Greens have labelled the council's new assessment on housing demand, which would see 12,700 unaffordable homes being built [4], as ridiculous. The Greens have said that the Council seems focused on an aim of driving up economic growth in the town but this would be at the expense of not meeting the real housing need in the borough.

The report is based on government's forecast of population changes [1] and quotes a requirement of 6,900 affordable homes out of a total 19,600, i.e. 12,700 would not be classed as affordable. The Greens calculated that a total figure of 11,000 is reasonable but that they should be all high density, almost all affordable and all on brown field sites [2].


Stuart Jeffery, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "The Conservatives must be grinning from ear to ear being able to point to a report that makes their own overinflated housing target seem reasonable. The report is based on government population forecasts, almost half of which are driven by an economic aim to move people from London and around the country into Maidstone.

"The Council's press release states that the high number of homes is needed to drive economic growth and I assume this perceived need for economic growth is behind the figure of 13,000 unaffordable homes. It is worth remembering that economic growth simply means longer hours, increasing resource usage and waste, and more building on green spaces.

"Suggesting that only 35% of new homes need to be affordable is particularly bizarre given that they state priorities for older people to down size, plus priorities for young people and new families. They do not mention that the other 65% would logically be incoming wealthy established families and they do not cite homelessness as problem despite the urgent need to tackle despite the eight fold rise in Maidstone[3]."

Notes:

1. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-246448
2. http://maidstonegreenpartynews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/no-need-for-greenfield-house-building.html
3. http://maidstonegreenpartynews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/637-homes-lose-over-900-each-year-as.html
4. Maidstone Borough Council news release: 18 December 2013

Maidstone Borough Council has been working towards a figure of 14,800 homes up until now but a recent independent study by consultants G L Hearn has found that the borough’s objectively assessed need is 19,600 new dwellings up to 2031.

The objective assessment is based on the latest projections of the borough’s population growth over the next 20 years and the need to support economic growth and to provide suitable housing for a range of ages, tastes and incomes.  Maidstone will need a sustainable mix of housing for an ageing population, young people and families looking to remain in the area where they grew up.   

The Soho Square based consultants, one the UK’s leading practices, conclude that affordable homes will remain a priority with a need for 345 affordable homes each year over the period up to 2031.

Meeting the needs of older people will be a matter of considerable scale in the borough due to the projected growth in the over 65 population who will need specialist and extra care housing.  There will also be a need for more smaller properties as older households downsize.

The borough council is now working to assess whether the need can be met before setting a housing target up to 2031.

Of the 190 sites submitted for potential housing use during a call for sites earlier in the year, currently only 60 are being recommended for development due to strict criteria around suitability. Each site has been rigorously judged against a range of national and local planning criteria, regulations and policy, including sustainable location, ecology, highways, access to services, flood risk, landscape, heritage impacts, and adjacent uses. Further potential areas for housing that did not come forward in the call for sites have also been identified by the council and have been subject to the same strict assessment criteria.

As a result the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment has identified possible sites for 8,241 dwellings. All of these sites will be consulted upon and everyone will have the chance to have their say in Spring 2014. This consultation will be accompanied by a further call for sites to try to meet the gap between the borough’s objectively assessed housing need and the currently identified supply.

The council’s priority will be to use previously developed sites first.  In the five years 2007 to 2012, 87% of housing in the borough was on brownfield sites. It also proposes to focus development at existing settlements rather than creating new ‘villages’, focussing on those areas with the infrastructure to sustain development. Resources for additional infrastructure will be drawn from a range of sources including Section 106 agreements, and in the future Community Infrastructure Levy payments and the New Homes Bonus.

Sites for the remaining dwellings are still to be found and the National Planning Policy Framework allows for a number to be identified in the form of broad locations, rather than specific sites. The council is currently considering options for these broad locations, including development in the town centre.

The council is working with infrastructure providers to make sure that any potential problems caused by either individual sites or the cumulative impact of development can be taken into account, and solutions for these problems sought.

When adopted the Maidstone Borough Local Plan will give the council power to refuse development in unsuitable areas, protecting vital green space and countryside, and ensuring that development is sustainable and appropriate for the borough.

Ends

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Disrespectful and demonstrating a complete lack of insight - 15th December 2013

Disrespectful and demonstrating a complete lack of insight is how Maidstone Green Party's Stuart Jeffery has described comments by the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Jasper Gerard. The comments by the Lib Dem were exposed in the Daily Mail[1] which quoted an email from Jasper Gerard as saying: "My life is now spent knocking on the doors of very old people in Maidstone, not all of whom remember who they are, let alone who they vote for."

Jasper Gerard's comments come on the back of his dismissal of claims of sexual harassment by Lord Renard as a 'clumsy pass' according to the Kent Messenger[2].

Stuart Jeffery, Green Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "If the reports in the Daily Mail are true then Jasper Gerard should stand down. His remarks are disrespectful and demonstrate a complete lack of insight into some of the difficulties of older age.

"Mr Gerard seems to be refusing to apologise claiming that, once again, his remarks are being taken out of context. Reading the comment, it seems very difficult to understand how they could be made other than in a disrespectful way. This is not the first time that he has claimed that his remarks were out of context.

"Older people should be valued for the depth of their knowledge, experience and wisdom, not denigrated for struggling with dementia. It just goes to prove that the elderly and underprivileged are nothing less than a joke to him as well as to the party and coalition government he represents. We don't mind which party older people choose to vote for provided they are respected."
 
Notes:
1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2521121/Billionaire-Tory-MP-Zac-Goldsmith-planning-run-London-mayor.html
2. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent_messenger/news/2013/february/26/prospective_candidate_gerard.aspx

Sunday, 1 December 2013

637 homes lose over £900 each year as homelessness rises eightfold in Maidstone - 1st December 2013

Maidstone Greens call for urgent action to address rapidly rising poverty and homelessness in the Borough, which has seen an eightfold rise rise in homelessness in three years, the highest in Kent. New statistics show that 637 local households have lost an average of £900 a year due to the bedroom tax[1], homelessness has risen eight fold locally[2] with Maidstone being hit hardest in Kent, there has been a threefold rise in the use of food banks nationally[3] and use has doubled in Kent in the past 12 months[4].

Members of Maidstone Green Party will be sleeping rough on Thursday 5th Dec to raise money for the Winter Shelter run by the local churches.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "There is a real poverty crisis in Maidstone that the council is failing to address. With 637 households that were already on low incomes taking a £900 a year hit on their income, it is no wonder that homelessness and the need for food banks are soaring.

"Whilst we understand that all local authorities are facing difficulties due to coalition cuts, the council should be focussing all its efforts on protecting the most vulnerable. Sadly, it is clearly failing. We are therefore calling on the council to take urgent, concerted action to address the unfolding crisis in the borough.

"The council needs to properly fund services for the homeless and for those needing food. It must start insulating homes for free across the borough, it must concentrate new home development on small properties, close to the town centre, it must provide proper financial support for those hit by the bedroom tax and it must call on Golding Homes not to evict families in arrears due to the bedroom tax."

Ends.

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/number-of-housing-benefit-claimants-and-average-weekly-spare-room-subsidy-amount-withdrawal
2. https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/documents/s43933/Item%20D3%20-%20Welfare%20Reform%20and%20Potential%20Impacts%20in%20Kent%20-%20Final%20rev3.pdf
See table 6: 2008 to 2010 average = 24.6; 2012 had 192 households accepted as homeless and in priority need.
3. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/29/uk-biggest-food-drive-second-world-war-poverty-welfare
4. https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/documents/s43929/Item%20D3%20-%20Covering%20Report%20-%20PR%20Cabinet%20Committee%206%20December%202013.pdf 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Maidstone Green Party says no to mansions on Hermitage Lane - 11th November 2013

Maidstone Green Party has objected to the planning application for 500 houses on Hermitage Lane as being the wrong type of housing in the wrong place.

The Greens have cited the loss of ancient woodland and biodiversity being against national policy for housing, the loss of farmland, that the majority of houses have a 'mansion' footprint of half an acre, the appalling impact on the road network and that the scheme does not meet the desperate need for smaller, affordable homes in the Borough.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "Building mansions on ancient woodland for huge profit while ordinary people are being made homeless demonstrates the appalling corporate greed that pervades our society.

"These mansions will have an average footprint of a quarter an acre, land that should be enhancing biodiversity or growing food for us to eat. Houses of this type on the outskirts of town will rely on cars which will clog up our roads and emit fumes that will clog up our lungs.

"We have to stop this appalling plan to put the wrong houses in the wrong place. We need small affordable homes close to the town centre."

Letter to the council:

Dear Planning / Development Control

Re: 13/1749 An Outline application for a Mixed-Use development comprising up to 500 residents

Maidstone Green Party wishes to object to this development on the following grounds:

  1. The application is for development of green field and ancient woodland. These are:
    • Ancient woodland
    • Deciduous woodland shown in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan 
    • Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative 2011-2014: Priority Catchments (England)
  2. Ancient woodland is protected under the NPPF: planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland
  3. The NPPF states that: When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should aim to conserve and enhance biodiversity. This development removes biodiversity.
  4. Farm land is essential to future food security and therefore should be protected.
  5. There area range of brown field sites in the town that are suitable for development.
  6. The type of housing proposed is just 30% affordable, with the remaining 70% (350 houses) likely to occupy the majority of the land. These 350 houses would have a foot print of around 1/4 acre each and will be unaffordable to those most in need of homes. 
  7. Demographics indicate a need for smaller homes as the population ages and the number of children per family falls. This development does not meet that need.
  8. At a time when the "bedroom tax" is forcing social housing tenants on housing benefit to give up their assured tenancies because housing associations have insufficient stock of smaller dwellings to offer them as an alternative - large, luxury houses on greenfield sites are not the type of housing that Maidstone needs to address its housing crisis.  
  9. There is a growing homelessness problem in the borough that this development will not address.
  10. The additional car movements required from a out of town / urban fringe development cannot be accommodated on the road network even with the proposed changes to St Andrews Road.
  11. The residents on St Andrews Road will be negatively affected by the changes specifically:
  • There will be at least 14,493 vehicles per day moving on St Andrews Road as opposed to 781 now
  • Parking provision in St Andrews Road will be drastically cut, we understand to under 15 places but this could be further reduced by provision for disabled parking allocation for users of the Medical Centre and residents only bays
  • This will lead to parking problems elsewhere, particularly Heath Road, Heath Grove, Tarragon Road, Queens Road and Tonbridge Road.
  • No consideration has been given to the safety of ELDERLY, DISABLED or YOUNG having to cross St Andrews road with fast flowing traffic to go to the surgery or church
  • No consideration has been given to the safety of schoolchildren walking to local schools and having to cross an increased number of roads with large traffic flows.
  • There appears to be no provision for a bus stop for passengers to go into town.
  • Increased noise levels will have a major impact on residents and patients of the surgery, pollution levels will be much higher than at present and particularly bad for those with bronchial and chest problems. Drivers travelling South and West of St Andrews Road/ Heath Road junction will experience longer travelling time than at present, including traffic hold ups which will produce more pollution.
  • Residents of Beverley Road and North Street will experience much greater traffic flows caused by we believe the no right turn into Heath Road from Hermitage Lane, this will also affect Barming schoolchildren as they all have to walk along one of these roads to get to school.  

Stuart Jeffery
Maidstone Green Party

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Protest march against the Hermitage Lane development

9th November 2013
Local Greens joined the protest march against the development on Saturday 9th November. The march, in torrential rain, attracted a good crowd of people concerned about the plans to build 500 houses on Hermitage Lane and to turn St Andrews Rd into a gyratory system with the Tonbridge Road.

The march was organised by the New Allington Action Group and the St Andrews Road Action Group.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "It was great to see so many people turn out in such appalling weather, it really demonstrates the strength of feeling about this dreadful plan."

"We are the only party in Maidstone opposed to building on greenfield sites and we will be fighting this planning application every step of the way.

"We simply can't allow big business to make huge profits building houses for the rich while ordinary people are being made homeless. We need more affordable housing in the centre of town, not unaffordable housing on ancient woodland."

Ends.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Greens to raise money for night shelter

8th November 2013
Maidstone Greens are planning to sleep rough on 5th December in the town centre to raise money for the new winter night shelter and to raise awareness of the growing homelessness problem in the town.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "We have been campaigning for the council to take concerted action to provide more support for people who have become homeless and we are pleased that the Maidstone churches have stepped in to provide a night shelter this Winter. We want to help support the night shelter and want to continue to raise the issue of homelessness which is why we are planning a 'sleep out' in the town during the depths of Winter."


Monday, 30 September 2013

Maidstone: the most dangerous place to walk or cycle in Kent

1st October 2013
A decision to be made by Kent County Council on Thursday could start to make 20mph limits a reality in Maidstone and Kent [1]. Maidstone Greens have been campaigning to make Maidstone's residential streets 20mph across the borough for many years. 20mph for residential street have recently been introduced or agreed for Brighton, Birmingham and the City of London, whereas Maidstone has a few 'zones' but no blanket limit.

Latest statistics show that the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in Kent rose by 29% last year, cyclists rose by 18% and overall the number killed and seriously injured rose by 1% in contrast to a national fall of 4% [2]. Maidstone had the highest number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured of anywhere in Kent [3].

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "I have my fingers crossed for the decision on Thursday. Kent is in the dark ages when it comes to road safety and Maidstone suffers with the worst record for road safety in Kent for non-car users.

"Reducing speed by 1 mph leads to a 6% fall in accidents - slowing down traffic is a simple and effective measure to improve road safety, so with 524 people killed or seriously injured on our roads last year, why has KCC failed to take action?

"Maidstone had the highest number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured of anywhere in Kent. The council should be encouraging people to get out of their cars to walk or cycle, not making Maidstone the most dangerous place in Kent. KCC needs to take action urgently."

1. https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=4911
2. https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/roads-and-transport/road-safety/Review%20of%20personal%20injury%20crashes%20occurring%20on%20Kent%20%20Roads%20i.pdf
3. Pedestrians = 16 KSI (see page 40); Cyclists =10 (page 43)

Friday, 27 September 2013

Greens deliver 650 letters of objection to Maidstone Borough Council

24th September 2013
Maidstone Greens have handed over 650 letters to Maidstone Borough Councillors asking them not to allow building on Fant Farm. The Green Party handed the letters to Councillor Paine (Cabinet Member for Strategic Planing) today at 2pm outside the Town Hall. They have collected the letters from residents around the 150 acre site that has been put forward for 590 houses. The Greens are concerned that building houses using a quarter of an acre of green field land for each is unnecessary and will not meet the future housing need of the town. The site has been put forward by its owners as a future area for housing.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party campaigner in Fant Ward: "Fant Farm is much loved by local residents. Building across this site would be disastrous for the area. The roads would not cope, there are not enough schools or doctors locally and Maidstone would lose yet another piece of green space to houses.

"We recognise the need for homes, however, and we have shown that there is enough space on existing 'brown field' sites where there are under-used offices and closed factories to provide homes for the next 20 years. With the need for homes being focused on smaller homes, the huge executive mansions suggested by the land owners with an average of a quarter of an acre for each house, the proposal is unnecessary as well as unwelcome.

"We have knocked on all the homes in the streets around Fant Farm and almost everyone wants Fant Farm to remain as it is - an asset to the community. Over 650 letters to the council have been signed by residents."


Notes:

2013 SHLAA: Fant Farm and Land by Farleigh Lane - 60.22 hectares (149 acres) identified for 590 homes - or a quarter of an acre each.
http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/local-plan-progress

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Irresponsible Helen Grant backs fracking

7th September 2013
Maidstone Greens have hit out at Helen Grant for backing fracking:in a letter to Stuart Jeffery, she stated that the 'benefits far outweigh the negatives' and that it could be a 'very positive development'. Local Greens have branded her response as irresponsible.

Stuart Jeffery: "If the worst impacts of climate change has any have any chance of being avoided, we have to stop drilling for gas and oil and rapidly invest in alternatives. Helen Grant's backing of climate chaos is therefore irresponsible to say the least.

"Furthermore, the impact on the local environment is huge. The groundwater contamination experienced in the US cannot be underestimated. Kent gets almost all of its drinking water from aquifers, yet Mrs Grant is backing a scheme that will pump carcinogens into the same ground water.

"There are three more applications for exploration in Kent this week - a truly worrying state of affairs and I doubt that will be long before an application is made close to Maidstone.

"The Green Party is the only party opposed to this dreadful destructive concept and we will continue to fight fracking wherever it happens."

Sunday, 1 September 2013

No need for greenfield house building in Maidstone

2nd September 2013
On the day that Maidstone Borough Council has descended into turmoil about its housing strategy[1], Maidstone Greens have published a report[2] clearly showing the number of homes required over the next 20 years and where they can go. Maidstone Greens have identified enough brownfield sites in the town to meet the future needs without having to build on any green field site.

Maidstone Green Party have also shown that there is a need for around 10,000 more homes over the next 20 years rather than the 14,800 suggested by the Conservatives. The report also shows that these new homes need to be one and two bedroom homes rather than the large executive houses favoured by the Conservatives.

Stuart Jeffery: "Our report uses population forecasts from Kent County Council which clearly demonstrate that the town needs around 10,000 more homes over the next 20 years, a figure far lower than the hyped up one being touted by the Conservative administration.

"Not only do we know that fewer homes are needed but we have demonstrated that there is a need for smaller, more affordable homes in the future rather than the swathes of mansions being proposed by the Conservatives.

"By building affordable homes close to the town centre, residents will have the benefit of easy access to public transport, access to jobs and access to shops. There will be less need for people to own a car, reducing the congestion that building out of town would bring us.

"Our report identifies a range of sites close to the town centre that can be converted to providing enough homes for people in the future without the need for building on farm and woodland. Unlike Maidstone's Tories and Lib Dems, the Greens have not given up on keeping our green fields safe from development."

Notes:
1. Extraordinary Council meeting to discuss housing: http://meetings.maidstone.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=151&MId=2049&Ver=4
2. Maidstone Green Party Housing Needs 2013 to 2033




Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fracking: Helen Grant challenged over Michael Fallon's comments

6th August 2013
Stuart Jeffery has challenged Helen Grant MP for Maidstone and the Weald to state her position on whether she supports fracking generally and whether she supports it in her Weald constituency after her Energy Minister colleague, Michael Fallon MP for Sevenoaks, announced that the would be more fracking in the Weald in Kent.

Stuart Jeffery: "I have written to Mrs Grant following her colleagues comments at the weekend when he stated that there would be fracking in Kent and in the Weald. The level of opposition to fracking is immense[1] and likely to increase, so as Mrs Grant is MP for a large part of the Weald in Kent, I think it is important that people know where she stands on this.

"The residents in Balcombe have been highly vocal about the fracking that is starting there, as have residents in Deal with the shale gas exploration at Woodnesborough.

"The Greens are at the forefront of the opposition of shale gas and have been supporting protestors in both Sussex and Kent."

ends.

Notes:
1. YouGov survey published 02/08/13 found that 43% of people would oppose fracking locally compared to 26% who would support it: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/hoirf26dxl/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-020813.pdf

2. Letter text:


Dear Mrs Grant,

Your colleague, Michael Fallon MP and Energy Minister, has indicated that there will be further exploration of shale in the search for gas and that this will occur across the Weald including in Kent and by inference, your constituency.

As opponents of shale gas extraction we are deeply concerned about this prospect and therefore we seek your assurance that you will be discussing this matter with Mr Fallon and that you will oppose any exploration of shale or drilling for shale gas in your constituency.

Please can you confirm your position on the exploration and drilling for shale gas generally and also in your constituency.

Yours sincerely

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Don't Frack our Weald

4th August 2013
The "Don't Frack our Weald" call from Maidstone Greens comes after energy minister, Michael Fallon MP, let slip that fracking is likely to come to Kent for a second time. In the Mail on Sunday the Energy Minster stated[1]: "The second area being studied is the Weald. It's from Dorset all the way along through Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, all the way perhaps a bit into Surrey and even into my county of Kent".

Maidstone Greens have vowed to be at the front line opposing fracking when plans are submitted in the Borough given the environmental risks of ground water contamination, earthquakes and increasing climate change. Last week Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East warned that protest would spread as fracking sites are proposed[4].

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "Of course there is already exploration of the shale in Sandwich, near Deal but it is clear from the Energy Minister's comment that we can expect many more applications in Kent.

"Fracking contaminates the ground water by pumping millions of gallons of carcinogen laden water[2] in at high pressure, it causes earthquakes[2] and it releases fossil fuels that increase climate change. It must be stopped and we will be at the front line to stop it in Maidstone.

"The increased interest in shale gas is down to this government's new tax breaks and it is clear that once again, the Tories and Lib Dems have failed the country."

On Friday (2nd Aug), Keith Taylor Green MEP for the South East warned[4]: "These protests won’t just be contained to Sussex. This huge opposition to extreme energy will, without doubt, spread across the UK and challenge any attempts to bring fracking to the British countryside."

Notes:
1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2384191/Doomsday-alert-fracking-minister-warns-rectory-walls-quaking-Middle-England-drilling-continues.html
2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/17/fracking-report-carcinogens-water-wells_n_850159.html
3. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jul/11/fracking-water-injection-major-earthquakes
4. http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2013/08/02/cuadrilla-begins-drilling-in-balcombe/
 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Spending Review

 27th June 2013
Maidstone Green Party's Stuart Jeffery rejects the austerity-obsessed Spending Review offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today calling for rich corporations and individuals to pay their way.

Stuart Jeffery comments: “There are two ways to deal with the hole in the Treasury’s accounts, one is to destroy the lives of vulnerable people who depend on the support from government the other is to ensure that rich companies and individuals pay their way fairly. It came with no surprise that the super-rich Chancellor, backed by a super-rich Cabinet and friends, chose the former.

“While some companies continue to ‘accidentally’ make their profits abroad to reduce their tax burden, a loss to the Treasury estimated by the TUC to be around £120 billion, and the banks start to gear up towards a further round of boom and bust with no additional checks, balances or taxes added to their businesses, the provision of essential welfare is slashed and public services crumble.

“It is clear that the Coalition Government cuts, which are supported by Labour, will ensure further serious damage to local government spending and our much needed services.

“Rather than protecting rich friends, we would ensure that a Financial Transaction Tax not only stabilises the banks’ voracious appetite for risk but brings significant benefits to the economy and we would put an end to off shore tax avoidance. And if the bankers want to leave we will wave them goodbye.

“Public services and support for vulnerable people through a fair system of welfare is essential to society. Bankers bonuses and off-shore tax havens are not.”

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Urgent need to tackle homelessness

13th May 2013
Local Greens have written to the leader of Maidstone Borough Council, Chris Garland, as the problem of homelessness in the continues to grow in the Borough. Maidstone had the second highest level of homelessness in Kent [1] at the end of 2012 and the problem has spiraled out of control in recent months.

The Greens are calling for real help for the people who find themselves without a home rather than the 'advice' that the Council are currently claim they are providing[2]. The real help includes finding places of safety, ensuring that the majority of new build homes are affordable, refusing to evict people in hardship caused by the bedroom tax - just as Green run Brighton Council have done, and promoting real jobs in the town.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "Maidstone has the second highest level of homelessness in Kent and the problem is growing rapidly, yet the council seem to be taking little action. I have therefore written to Cllr Garland expressing my concerns and asking what real steps he will be taking.

"The Council seem to have their heads in the sand as they discuss reducing the requirement for affordable homes in the future while simply offering 'advice and guidance' to people who find themselves without a home.

"The Council needs to take positive measures to help people. They need to identify places of safety for people to stay in the short term, they need to ban evictions due to the bedroom tax, just as Green run Brighton has done, and they need to focus house building on affordable homes."

Notes:

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/160705/Table_784a.xls
2. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent_messenger/news/Home-among-the-headstones-601/
3. Text of letter to Cllr Garland below:

I am worried that the council is failing some very vulnerable people. For many weeks the Kent Messenger has been following the stories of the increasing number of homeless people in the Borough and I have met with a number of them myself to understand their needs.  

It is clear that Maidstone has a growing problem. Statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that Maidstone already has the second highest level of homelessness in Kent and a cursory glance at the town shows that the figures from the DCLG are woefully understated.  

I am particularly concerned that you are considering reducing the future requirements for affordable homes and that according to the press, the council sees its role as providing ‘advice and guidance’ to people.  

The primary responsibility for reducing homelessness sits with the Borough Council so please can you let me know what additional actions you are taking to meet this growing challenge.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Deep concern at delivery office move to Parkwood

10th May 2013
Maidstone Greens have written to Royal Mail to express their anger at the final move of the town centre delivery office to Parkwood as the move will ensure that collections of parcels will either involve significant journeys to the out of town centre or additional cost to have the parcel sent to a local post office.

Stuart Jeffery: "This move is all about saving money for the Royal Mail at the expense of customers. It will mean that people will now either have to take a bus into the town centre and another back out to Parkwood or they will have to drive out there adding to the traffic chaos on the Sutton and Loose Roads. To avoid the extra travel the Royal Mail is suggesting a top up fee to let customers pick parcels up from local post offices.

"The current delivery office in the town centre is accessible by train and bus and very few people need to drive to it.

"This move is simply not acceptable and we have written to the Royal Mail to express our deep concerns and anger asking them to consider reopen a delivery office in the town centre or to deliver to local post offices for free."


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Anger at Library eviction in Maidstone

14th April 2013
Maidstone Greens are calling on Kent County Council to work with a group of young people to find them a place to live after the Council evicted them from the old library in Maidstone on Friday. The group had started to live in the building after it had sat empty and unused for the past year. Stuart Jeffery met with representatives from the group on Sunday and was impressed by their ideas.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "This group of young people were putting an unused building to good use as a home but thanks to the actions of the County Council they now have to find somewhere else to live while the building goes back to being empty. They were evicted despite causing no damage and despite the growing problem of homelessness in the town.

"The group are keen to live sustainably, growing food and working for a living, they just need a place where they can do this. Maidstone Library has sat empty for the past year after it was moved out of the town and while it might not be an ideal building, it could help this group.

"Bring unused buildings back into use, especially if it is meeting a real need to meet, such as housing, has to be a good thing. We are therefore calling on Kent County Council to rethink its strategy towards its empty buildings and to carefully consider whether they can be used as homes in either the short or long term."

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Full slate of Maidstone Candidates in County Council Elections

13th April 2013
Maidstone Green Party has a full slate of candidates, standing candidates in each seat across Maidstone in the elections on May 2nd.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Central candidate: "We are challenging the rather miserable vision of hopelessness and austerity presented to voters by other parties. We are a rich country and the other parties pretend we are poor, continuing to support cuts and low pay for most people - as if ordinary people were to blame for the long recession.

"Our manifesto can be seen as being covered by three themes, the economy, transport and the environment.

"We want to see real improvements in the quality of our economy. We will create jobs – real jobs in industries that we urgently need, public transport, energy efficiency, insulation, sustainable farming, renewable energy, education. We will tackling poverty with a  living wage and 10:1 wage ratio in KCC.

"We will improve the quality of travel in Kent with 20mph limits where people live. We will make it the socially acceptable speed to drive in residential areas. We will investing in public transport, walking and cycling, making them the first choice for travel.

"We will tackle air pollution from roads that kills 700 people each year in Kent. We will improving the quality of the environment, conserving and enhancing the natural environment for tourism, forestry and biodiversity - for future generations and we will protecting green spaces, farmland and woodland – spaces such as Oaken Wood."
    Our candidates are:

    Maidstone Central (1):     Stuart JEFFERY
    Maidstone Central (2):     Wendy LEWIS
    Maidstone North East:     Andrew WALDIE
    Maidstone Rural East:      Penny KEMP
    Maidstone Rural North:   Ciaran OLIVER
    Maidstone Rural South:    Robin KINDRADE
    Maidstone South:            Ashley WAKELING
    Maidstone South East:     Steve MUGGERIDGE

    Notes:
    1. More than 1200 people are paid less than £7.45 per hour while 5 staff are paid over £74.50 and almost 500 paid over £25 per hour.
    2. 70 to 80% of people back 20mph limits 
    3. 29,000 deaths directly attributable to air pollution from traffic each year across UK - Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants – and 200,000 suffer the effects.

    Monday, 1 April 2013

    Buckland community against supermarket development

    2nd April 2013
    Over a hundred residents have signed a petition to the council's planning committee which has been submitted with Maidstone Green Party's objection letter. The letter sets out significant concerns about the current level of traffic in the area which will increase by 54% if the supermarket is built.

    Stuart Jeffery: "There is overwhelming opposition to a supermarket on St Peters Street as the petition shows. Local people have suffered since the St Peters Street was turned into a shopping area and the roads now regularly turn into gridlock. Increasing the number of cars on them by 54% is madness."

    "With six supermarkets within a mile of the site and a seventh planned for the old Army and Navy store, there is no need for one here. It will simply damage existing businesses.

    "There is no bus service to the site and the nearest stop is 400 metres away so the majority of people will be driving there. Coupled with the drive thru McDonalds by Maidstone West, the area is in for a huge inlux of cars."

    Our objection letter is available here.

    Friday, 29 March 2013

    Greens lodge objection to supermarket with 100 strong petition

    29th March 2013
    Letter to Development Control with a 100 strong petition by local residents against the planning application for a huge supermarket on St Peter's Street.

    Planning Application Ref: 13/0297 - Objection

    We, along with local residents, are very concerned about the planning application to convert the 'Power Hub' on St Peters St into a supermarket. We append a 100 signature petition that has been signed by local residents.

    Firstly, the site could be put to better use, for example for light industry or affordable homes, both of which are in short supply. Neither of these uses would create the volumes of traffic associated with a supermarket yet industry and homes are necessary for the town.

    Secondly, the specific grounds on which we object to the supermarket are as follows:

    1. Another supermarket in the area is unnecessary. There are already six large supermarkets within a mile of the site: Tesco and Lidl in Tovil; Sainsburys at Romney Place; Aldi on Well Road; Waitrose in Allington and another Lidl in the Broadway Shopping Centre. These are supplemented by three huge supermarkets at Grove Green, Senacre and Aylesford. Furthermore Morrisons are keen to take over the Army and Navy site just a short distance from Baltic Wharf.

    As Maidstone residents are not starving as a result of being unable to find a local supermarket it seems that there are no good reasons to think that additional supermarket capacity is needed in the town.

    2. The opening of Asda Home alongside TK Max, Homebase, Wickes and Hobbycraft has reduced St Peters Street and Buckland Hill to gridlock at the weekends. There are three schools that are accessed via Buckland Hill which create serious congestion at 8.30 am and 3.30pm each weekday.

    The plans state that there will be an extra 710 vehicles an hour along these roads, a rise of 54%. The planning application seems to focus on the impact on the gyratory system and London Road, however the real impact will be on St Peters Street and Buckland Hill and these roads will simply not cope with this additional traffic which equates to an extra car passing every 5 seconds.

    The new ‘drive thru’ McDonalds proposed for the Broadway is already destined to bring more congestion and worsen air quality in the area.

    There are no bus services at all along St Peters Street, and the site is 400 metres from the nearest bus stops. Inevitably almost all customers will arrive and leave by car contributing further to the traffic congestion and pollution in this part of the town.

    The impact on air quality for the 800 homes in the Buckland area will be devastating. For some reason the council has not been assessing the area in your pollution control work, however it is opposite Fairmeadow which has exceeded the NO2 targets for the past three years and we can only assume that this level of pollution already extends to Buckland Hill and St Peters Street.

    Furthermore, as European research has shown that the UK has around 29,000 premature deaths occur in the UK as a result of PM10, there can be no justification in reducing air quality levels for people already living in an Air Quality Management Area, an area that is clearly experiencing excess deaths due to air pollution.

    3. Other local shops will become unviable and will close. The Corner Shop by Maidstone Barracks Station is well used by local residents and provides useful employment and a friendly local business that will be destroyed by a supermarket on its doorstep.

    Maidstone Borough Council should be encouraging local businesses not closing them down.

    We urge you to reject the planning application.

    Maidstone Green Party

    Saturday, 23 March 2013

    Say no to a new supermarket on St Peters Street

    23rd March 2013
    Local Greens are deeply concerned about plans for a new supermarket in St Peters St in Maidstone. They are calling on local residents to write to the council in opposition to the plans which will increase traffic on the already gridlocked streets by 710 cars an hour.

    Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "We are very concerned about the planning application to convert the 'Power Hub' on St Peters St into a large supermarket and we want to make sure that local people are aware of the plan too. The plans suggest an extra 710 cars on the already crowded roads - roads that are not coping at present.

    "We think the the site could be put to better use, for example for light industry or affordable homes, both of which are in short supply, but another supermarket in the area is unnecessary.

    "The impact on local shops will also be devastating. We need to be protecting local businesses not destroying them when there are already six other supermarkets within a mile radius of the site.

    "Please write to Development Control, Maidstone Borough Council, Maidstone House, King Street, Maidstone, Kent ME15 6JQ and quote ref MA/13/0297 before 8th April."

    The full plan can be found on the Maidstone Borough Council website in the planning section under Ref: MA/13/0297.

    Saturday, 16 February 2013

    Bedroom tax and the big squeeze - Letter to KM

    11th February 2013
    Dear Kent Messenger, You referred to the 'Bedroom Tax' as the 'Big Squeeze', the irony of which should not be understated. This is the latest disgusting attack on people on low incomes by the Conservative / Lib Dem government and comes hot on the heels of council tax benefit cuts.

    This tax will lead to evictions and poverty for many of the 600 families affected by it in Maidstone while forcing teenagers to share bedrooms and ensuring that carers have to sleep on a sofa - it really will become a 'big squeeze'. Families with a son or daughter in the forces will also have to give up their spare bedroom or pay more for it.

    Of course the 'big squeeze' only applies to people on benefits and low incomes. Those Lib Dem and Conservative MPs will doubtless be unaffected by the changes - instead they are calling for a disgusting 32% pay rise for themselves.

    Stuart Jeffery
    Maidstone Green Party

    Tuesday, 1 January 2013

    Ian Hislop disappointed with Helen Grant

    2nd January 2012
    Private Eye editor and Kent resident, Ian Hislop has said that Helen Grant's recent behaviour was "very disappointing" in an email[2] to local Green, Stuart Jeffery. Ian Hislop chaired the selection panel which chose Helen Grant to replace Ann Widdecombe as Maidstone's MP. Stuart has welcomed the comment which adds to the weight of criticism and has repeated his calls for Mrs Grant to resign.

    Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "I welcome Ian's honesty in his criticism of Helen Grant's actions. He has been vocal about the bad behaviour of other MPs and it was good to see him pulling no punches in his email to me.

    "Her callous attitude towards Maidstone and the Weald constituents, her broken promises and her bending of the expenses rules for her own advantage all mean that she must go and is the reason that we have started an online petition[1] calling for her resignation."

    Notes:
    1. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/helen-grant-should-resign.html
    2. Email conversation between Ian Hislop and Stuart Jeffery:

    Strobes wrote:

    Thanks, yes, I saw this -- very disappointing. Will look into it.

    Best, Ian Hislop

    *From:*Stuart Jeffery [mailto:sjeffery@fmail.co.uk]
    *Sent:* 20 November 2012 07:21
    *To:* Strobes
    *Subject:* Resign, Helen Grant MP!

    Dear Mr Hislop,

    I think Helen Grant may be your MP as well as mine and I recall that you were involved in her selection process. I therefore wondered if you might be interested in the campaign to get her to resign that I am starting given the revelations in the press this week. The email below went out to this morning and sets out the case.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards

    Stuart

    50% increase in serious accidents in Maidstone

    1st January 2013
    Kent Greens have roundly criticised Kent County Council transport supremo, Cllr Sweetland, for his email[3] claiming that "the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account" to defend the 50% increase in people killed or seriously injured in the town in 2011.

    Cllr Sweetland's email also goes on to refuse to introduce 20mph limits across all residential areas despite his acknowledgement that "speed is a factor in almost crashes".

    Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "Cllr Sweetland's response is more than disappointing, especially after the latest figures show a 50% rise in serious accidents in Maidstone and that he accepts that speed is a factor in almost all crashes. I simply don't understand how he can justify not taking an urgent but simple step to reduce the high number of deaths and injuries, especially when there is such high public support.

    "With public support for 20mph limits in residential areas at around 73%[1] and 8 million people living in authorities that have 20mph limits[2] there are simply no barriers to this. Coupled with the benefits to road safety, and the potential reduction in air pollution and congestion, I have to question his motives for not acting.

    "Cllr Sweetland must act now to save lives. Further blocking of this simple and effective is unacceptable."

    ends.
    FURTHER INFORMATION: Stuart Jeffery, Chair, KENT GREEN PARTY
    07970 436029. Contact address as above. http://www.stuartjeffery.net Alternate contact, Steve Dawe, Press Officer on 07747 036192 or 01732 355185. Please leave message if necessary on any of these numbers and we will try to get back to you shortly. KENT GREEN NEWS, free monthly ezine, is available at www.kentgreenparty.org  Published by Kent Green Party and promoted by H.Dawe, both at 27, Audley Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1XF.


    Notes:
    1. British Social Attitudes Survey 2011 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9029/bsa-2011-report.pdf
    2. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-20mph-revolution-millions-of-drivers-face-lower-speed-limits-as-new-laws-sweep-the-country-8434292.html

    3. Cllr Sweetland's (KCC Cabinet Member for Transport) email to Stuart Jeffery:

    Dear Mr Jeffery

    Thank you for copying me in on the recent email exchanges. I wanted to set out the facts for the avoidance of doubt.

    Looking at the Maidstone district, there was indeed a rise in the number of crashes in 2011. However, it is important to put the figures into context.
       *  There were 412 car crashes on KCC roads in Maidstone in 2011, and this should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (395 to 375).  The number of car crashes in the district was 3% lower than the 2004-8 baseline average of 424.
       * The number of Killed and Seriously Injured crashes in the Maidstone district in 2001 was 24, and this again should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (29 to 16).
       * Traffic in the Maidstone district increased between 2010 and 2011 with 146,069 more vehicle miles recorded in cars.
    Any road crash casualties are a cause for concern. In context, the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account.  Furthermore, simple comparison in statistical variation with the previous year does not necessarily present the true situation.  For this reason local Highway Authorities and the Department for Transport always consider at least three years data to more accurately pinpoint issues that we should focus on.

    There are many benefits to the implementation of 20mph limits in specific locations and we already have nearly 800 roads in the County covered by such limits. However, whilst speed is a factor in almost all crashes, there are many other causation factors that should be taken into account when considering appropriate responses to crashes and casualties on our roads. A targeted approach, rather than an indiscriminate "blanket" reaction, has served Kent well over the years in the reduction of road crashes and I intend to maintain that approach. We have a close relationship with Kent Police, and their current position on 20mph zones is that they should have an element of self enforcement which would not require a Police presence unless there are exceptional circumstances.

    Following further pilot schemes in the Maidstone area, we will be considering our 20mph policy in 2013 and we will consult widely to ensure that appropriate cost effective solutions to road safety issues are delivered. This will ensure that the limited amounts of public money we have for road safety education, enforcement and engineering are spent with the utmost efficiency.

    I hope this provides some clarification for you.

    Yours sincerely