Monday, 20 January 2014

Yalding, is it viable? - 20th Jan 2014

"We need a study into the future viability of villages such as Yalding", is the call from Maidstone Greens. While government discuss the possibility of a "Yalding Garden City"[1], the Greens point out that the flooding is set to get more frequent and more extreme in future years and climate change increases and the best option may be retreat.The Greens made the call in their submission[2] to the Council's consultation on a Green and Blue Strategy.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Prospective Parliamentary Candidate: "Yalding needs a future, yet all government seems to do is talk about more houses on flood plains while failing to protect those already built. The flooding in places like Yalding is going to get worse - climate change means more extreme weather at increased frequency which for Kent in winter means more flooding.

"Yalding has two options, the government could invest massively in flood defences to fight Nature or it could move people away from the worst of the flooding. Moving people, and potentially some of the historic buildings in Yalding, may be a more difficult political pill to swallow but it could provide the only long term solution.

"We want to see an unbiased study into the options for Yalding, and other villages that suffer regularly with floods, as we believe doing nothing is not an option."


2. Submission to MBC on 21st Jan 2014:

Maidstone Green Party would like to make the following points in response to your consultation on the draft Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy:

  • A study should be commissioned on the future viability of Yalding and other villages at high risk of flooding
  • The proposed reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while being at the level set out by Parliament, are too low and we suggest that Maidstone Borough Council should be carbon free by 2020 and the Borough should have reduced emissions by 90% by 2030 from 1990 levels
  • The use of new woodland should be considered to reduce fluvial flooding
  • Ancient woodland should receive the highest level of protection against development
  • Fracking, or any extraction of unconventional fossil fuels should be banned from within the Borough and MBC should strongly object to such proposals.
  • ensure that planning proposals protect existing wildlife habitats and include public open space
  • enhance the biodiversity at all public open spaces, where this would not conflict with its recreational use, and ensure they are appropriately managed in the future
  • reduce the Council’s use of herbicides and pesticides in public parks, open spaces, tennis courts, streets, etc. Organic weed control methods should be adopted wherever possible promote the benefits of organic, locally produced food, and local distribution networks or box schemes
  • lobby the Government and EC to improve incentives for producers to switch to free range and organic food production, and remove incentives for large scale monoculture and factory farming, which have devastating effects on biodiversity, animal welfare, soils and water quality
  • encourage schools and other institutions to use organic and GM-free ingredients
  • encourage local shops and supermarkets to sell a greater proportion of food that has been produced locally, organically and ethically
  • persuade the Council to work with Allotments Associations to develop an Allotments Strategy – to protect existing sites, provide new sites in new large development, ensure that they are well maintained, promoted, and have areas set aside for organic production
  • work with charities, such as the Woodland Trust to plant new woods and establish new wildlife habitats around the borough with public access
  • have planning policies that protect all rivers, wetlands and their vicinities from any negative developments. Work with the Environment Agency to enhance watercourse in the council’s ownership and promote restoration to landowners where appropriate.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Maidstone subways still flooded 3 weeks later - 13th Jan 2014

Four out of five subways used by pedestrians and cyclists in Maidstone remain closed and flooded nearly three weeks after the floods came, blocking the only cycle path between East and West Maidstone. Kent County Council are unsure when they will be re-opened [1]. Maidstone is the most dangerous place in Kent for pedestrians and cyclists[2].

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Maidstone: "The fact that cyclists are unable to cross from one side of the river to the other safely three weeks after the floods is unbelievable. Pedestrians are taking their lives into their own hands crossing the gyratory by the Broadway Shopping Centre and near Drakes.

"While Kent County Council concentrate on the roads they are once again ignoring the needs of people who do not have cars. Maidstone remains the most dangerous place in Kent for cyclists and pedestrians and it is about time KCC woke up to this."

1. Phone call to Kent Highways 13/1/14
3. Only the subway connecting the High St with the south side of the south bridge is open. The other four are all closed and flooded. Photos taken 13th Jan 2014

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Supermarket plan refusal welcomed - 12th Jan 2014

Maidstone Greens have welcomed the notional refusal of a new supermarket on St Peters Street in Maidstone by Maidstone Borough Council at Thursday's Planning Committee and they are calling on local residents to make their feelings known to the Secretary of State / Planning Inspector who will be deciding the application now that it has gone straight to appeal.

Stuart Jeffery spoke at the planning meeting on behalf of the Green Party and also on behalf of local residents. The meeting was attended by around 20 local residents who are concerned about the impact of the proposal which would see a 54% increase in traffic and the removal of the only cycle land between West and East Maidstone.

Stuart Jeffery: "The plan for the supermarket in an already congested residential area is simply untenable. The impact on lives would be appalling with traffic levels rising by 54%, St Peters St and Buckland Hill would be gridlocked for most of the time, not just on Saturdays and during rush hour as they presently are.

"Removing the only cycle lane across the river in Maidstone is a ridiculous idea, as is the loss of the footpath on Buckland Hill, a footpath used by many of the thousands of school children in the local area. These suggestions are truly awful in the Borough with the highest number of cyclists and pedestrians killed or seriously injured in Kent.

"We are urging people to write to the Secretary of State to oppose the plan and to continue to campaign against it."

1. Planning Inspectorate / Secretary of State:
2. Speech given to Planning Committee:

Mr Chairman, members of planning committee, thank you for allowing me to address you in objection to this proposal. Many of you will know me from my political work and while I am representing some of the views the Green Party and presenting our petition, I am primarily here to put forward a mixture of views from many local residents including the recently formed residents association during the one small slot that we are collectively allowed.

There are three key points which I will draw your attention to:

Firstly, we do not believe that the impact of the additional traffic on the immediate area has been assessed properly.

The assessment was made using three short slots of 1 hour, none of which were at peak times.

Buckland Hill and St Peters St are regularly grid locked with queues, especially on Saturdays and during rush hour. They cannot cope with at least 50% more traffic.

The proposed road widenings will be detrimental to other users and residents including:

  • The vast number of school children that walk to school in the area (6 major schools including Oakwook Park complex and MGGS / Maplesden)
  • The cycle path on North Bridge will be lost and therefore the main cycle route from West Maidstone will disappear.
  • Maidstone already has the highest number of pedestrians and cyclists Killed or Seriously Injured anywhere in Kent.
  • The railway bridge on Buckland Hill will still act as a significant restriction
  • The trees which act as sound and pollution barriers will be lost which will be detrimental to residents and pedestrians
  • Reduced access to houses on Buckland hill will increase the risk of accidents
Furthermore, PM10 air pollution already kills 70 people each year in the borough. Air quality will decline significantly.

With the estimated 75% of users being from West Maidstone, cars will not exit the supermarket along St Peters St in the main, they will travel up Buckland Hill towards their homes.

They will also travel down Buckland Hill to the supermarket. There are already significant problems with cars turning right into Buckland Hill from the west bound A20. This will increase along with the number of accidents.

These factors mean that we feel the impact on travel has not been properly assessed or understood, yet will be devastating to local people.

Secondly, there are now 7 supermarkets within a one mile radius of this site. Your notes show that council already has a better plan at Maidstone East. The proposed supermarket is not required.

Finally I refer you to 3.2.6 in your briefing papers. “The borough council should only consider permitting the application… if no other viable uses could be identified”.

  • This site is perfect for affordable apartments which would be in keeping with the style of housing that surrounds the site and which would not significantly increase traffic levels.
  • Alternative uses have been suggested such as a cultural venue.
We therefore urge you to decline this proposal

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Appalled by benefits evictions - 5th Jan 2014

Maidstone Greens have been appalled to hear that Fergus Wilson is evicting 200 households simply because they are on benefits [1] and are calling on him to reconsider. The news comes shortly after the eightfold rise in homelessness in Maidstone was mentioned in a KCC report into the welfare changes[2].

Stuart Jeffery, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone: "In my opinion, Fergus Wilson's action to evict 200 tenants for being in receipt of benefits is immoral and I urge him to reconsider his decision. His portfolio of properties covers Maidstone, which has seen an eight fold rise in homelessness in the past three years and now is sure to rise even higher.

"Discriminating against people in need of benefits is simply wrong and now a further 200 families will be looking for a home because of the combined Conservative and Lib Dem assault on people in need and Mr Wilson's desire to put profit before people.

"There is a very real housing problem in Maidstone and there needs to be positive action taken to rapidly reverse the rise in homelessness."