20-07-17 – Maidstone Mela

Perhaps I am becoming wiser with the years, or maybe it is an emerging sign-of-our-times, but the importance of community has never been more prominent in my psyche; those vital human needs of belonging, togetherness, sharing and caring, shielding and sheltering.

In Maidstone we are blessed with a multicultural community, home to a rich range of traditions and lifestyles. The harmony we enjoy is something to be celebrated and promoted because it says something very important about our people and modern Britain; we are not a divided society, much though the wicked atrocities of recent months have sought to undermine it.

Maidstone's annual Mela has been running since 2003, last week staging its 14th celebration at tranquil Whatman Park on the banks of the Medway. The festival embodies much that is great about diversity and inclusion; music, dance and international cuisine against a consensual multi-faith backdrop with audiences and performers from all walks.

Like many other local authorities, Maidstone Borough Council has faced funding challenges for a plethora of projects and tough decisions have had to be made. I get that, but under the prevailing circumstances I see the Mela as being a critical aspect of creating and maintaining sustainable communities.

It further concerned me that MBC levied a charge of £800 upon the festival for refuse and sanitation services, something that surely could have been waived. Consequently the lead organisers 'Cohesion Plus' were faced with an enormous struggle to find this year's cash and the fact that the event went ahead at all was a remarkable achievement. I take my hat off to Gurvinder Sandher and his team for their perseverance and commitment.

I have pledged to work with them toward a much better funded event for next year, hopefully with at least some help from MBC, for the good of everyone in our community. To help, contact me or www.cohesionplus.com.

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Helen's column is published weekly in the Kent Messenger. Please note the print version may differ from the content here.


Local MP Helen Grant meets Rocky Hill residents

Following an electrical fire that occurred at Rocky Hill Terrace in London Road, Maidstone, on May 24th Fire Officers have recommended safety improvements to the building. This will require all 38 residents in 36 flats to be relocated. The residents are a group of older people some of whom have additional mobility and health issues.

Helen Grant MP was contacted by Simon Clark, Group Director – Housing, Sanctuary Group, which owns the property, to make her aware of the situation.

Helen said 'The safety of these residents is paramount and it does seem that the improvements needed to the structural compartmentation of the building will require the property to be vacated. I am very mindful of the distress experienced by so many being relocated following the fall-out of the Grenfell Tower disaster; my immediate concerns were therefore about how the need for relocation would be explained and then carried out. Clearly this will be a very sensitive time for the people affected and many have lived there for a long period of time'.

'I visited residents on Friday with Mr Clarke to speak with them myself, to ensure they received substantive answers to their questions and to act on their behalf in holding the landlords to account.

Initially I did share residents' suspicions that the works may be a convenient excuse to gain vacant possession of the building prior to redevelopment into more valuable units.

Having had the meeting I feel more reassured that there isn't an underlying ulterior motive like that and that the reasons for relocation are genuine.

I am also satisfied that Sanctuary are managing this process in a caring and sensitive manner. Sensibly they have not put an immediate timescale on the process as they do not want to add that kind of pressure to the residents. Their focus is upon moving each and every individual to a home that suits them and one that they are happy with'.

Simon Clark said 'We have been talking to residents and their families in one to one meetings throughout this week. We have a dedicated a team of senior and experienced housing staff taking them through the process sensitively and carefully.

'In addition to providing the residents with an on-site Liaison Officer, we are speaking to relevant statutory agencies and appropriate local charities about whether there is further support that can be given'.

'All residents will have a choice about their accommodation. The alternative properties identified so far are of good quality, desirable and nearby their existing homes. However, if any of the residents would like to view other homes we will, of course, oblige.'

Mrs Grant will continuing monitoring the issue until all residents are re-housed appropriately.


20 JUL 2017

Maidstone Mela

Kent Messenger Column - 20-07-17  Perhaps I am becoming wiser with the years, or maybe it is an emerging sign-of-our-times, but the importance of community has never been more prominent in my psyche; those vital human needs of belonging, togetherness,...


13 JUL 2017

Vehicle emissions

Kent Messenger Column - 13-07-17  Last November I raised serious concerns about vehicle emissions with the planning inspector at Maidstone's local plan public hearings. The core of my anxiety was (and remains) unmitigated rising emissions from increased...


06 JUL 2017

'Go Train'

Kent Messenger Column - 06-07-17 There are more people now in work than ever before, unemployment has remained at its lowest rate for eleven years, women in employment has reached a record rate and youth unemployment is at its lowest level since 2005. However...



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HELEN GRANT MP

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