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Public consultation on Maidstone parish boundary changes suggests Loose could double in size

A village could double in size under plans put forward to redraw the political boundaries of the county town.

Maidstone council has been considering a number of proposals put forward under its “community governance review” – looking at the size and areas covered by parish councils.

Maidstone is counsulting on plans to review the parish council boundaries. Pictured: Maidstone Town Hall
Maidstone is counsulting on plans to review the parish council boundaries. Pictured: Maidstone Town Hall

Councillors have decided to put foward a number of suggestions to a “Stage 2“ consultation giving the public a chance to have a say, before they are either adopted or dismissed.

If adopted, residents in some parishes will find themselves transferred to another. Some residents will find themselves under a parish council for the first time, while a few – in Tovil - will find they are no longer in a parish at all, and excused the requirement to pay a parish precept in future.

Among the changes proposed are an extension eastwards of Barming Parish to Hermitage Lane, so as to take in Fullingpits Avenue, Oakapple Lane, Silverdale, Northfields and Abingdon Road.

Bougthon Monchelsea would grab some houses currently in the parish of Loose, by extending west to take in the houses on the east side of Hubbard Lane.

Residents in Fairhurst Drive, Coxheath, would find themselves instead living in Fairhurst Drive, East Farleigh, while the whole of the south west corner of Thurnham Parish would wake up to find themselves in Bearsted.

Oakapple Lane could move into Barming Parish
Oakapple Lane could move into Barming Parish

A common misunderstanding is that the Coombe Farm estate is in Tovil – it is not, apart from a dozen or so properties at the east end of Courtenay Road, near the junction with Postley Road.

The proposal here is to take these houses out of the parish, putting them on a level footing with the rest of the residents on the Coombe Farm estate.

The single largest single change would be a proposal for a massive extension of the parish of Loose, so as to take over the area now known locally as North Loose.

For the past 20 years, North Loose, which is currently unparished, has been looked after by the North Loose Residents Association – a group of volunteers elected by their members.

They have performed many functions similar to a parsh council – including examining planning applications in the area and responding where necessary, pro-actively pushing for highways improvements, installing and maintaining flower planters in the area’s two shopping parades and running regular coffee mornings for the elderly at the local YMCA.

The Boughton Shopping Parade could find itself in Loose
The Boughton Shopping Parade could find itself in Loose

In addition they own and maintain an area of woodland close to Maidstone Cemetery known as Mangravat Wood.

They maintan an area of green space at Richmond Way, which they have on a long lease from Maidstone council, and they maintain the popular Greenway footpath connecting Cripple Street to Loose Villlage.

They were also the first organisation in Maidstone to successfully complete a Neighbourhood Plan, ahead of all the borough’s parish councils.

However, the average age of the committee is over 70, and with several members looking to retire and a lack of fresh blood coming forward, the NLRA announced its intention to seek a “merger” with Loose Parish Council at its annual general meeting in Loose Infants School earlier this month.

The proposal will see the new Loose Parish area almost double in size, extending to the Wheatsheaf junction and taking in Maidstone Cemetery, New Line Learning Academy and Five Acre Wood School.

One of the major differences for residents will be cost. At present, only around one in five households in the North Loose Area are members of the NLRA, which is voluntary. They pay £5 a year per household.

How the new Loose would look
How the new Loose would look

Once in Loose Parish, every household will be obliged to pay the parish precept, which is currently £93.87 for the “average” Band D home.

Sean Carter is the chairman of the NLRA. He said: “Loose parish is currently fairly small in terms of the number of occupants.

“People feel that they enter Loose as soon as they turn south on the A229 at the Wheatsheaf junction, so it seems sensible that we should combine.

“We feel that the two of us together will be able to offer more initiative, vision and skills that will be to the benefit of all Loose residents in future.”

He added: “Although NLRA has its own Neighbourhood Plan and we are consulted on planning issues, there are a lot of changes in the pipeline, such as the reorganisation of the Wheatsheaf junction that could affect the area, and we’ll be stronger together.”

Sean Carter: chairman of North Loose Residents Association
Sean Carter: chairman of North Loose Residents Association

Vianne Gibbons is the chairman of Loose Parish Council. She said: “We support the extension. We believe this will be to the benefit of current residents of both areas. We both share many amenities, including shops, doctors, schools and playing fields and both of our areas have worked very closely in the past.”

Cllr Brian Clark (Lib Dem) lives in North Loose, representing South Ward on Maidstone council.

He said parish boundaries had changed several times over the generations and that if accepted the proposal would actually bring back within Loose some historical parts.

However, a second major change proposed by officers, will not be going out to public consultation after it was rejected by councillors.

That was a proposal to ask the residents of Grove Green, who currently sit within Boxley Parish whether they wanted to branch out on their own and either form a separate parish council, or indeed become unparished.

Cllr Clive English (Lib Dem) said: ”Unparishing the area would cause far more expense and trouble to the tax-payers of Maidstone than it could conceivably save.”

Meanwhile, Cllr John Perry (Con) said: ”Boxley is one of the most succesful parish councils, and you don’t mess around with a winning team.”

It was also suggested residents might vote to go unparished simply to avoid paying the precept.

But others thought residents should be asked, including Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green), who said: “We really ought to be trusting the public.”

A consultation is now open. Take part by clicking here.

It will run until Sunday August 6.

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