Published: 09:00, 27 July 2021
| Updated: 09:07, 27 July 2021
The leader of Maidstone council is taking a positive view on the future of Maidstone.
Cllr David Burton was elected leader on May 22 this year after the Conservative group gained a significant majority of seats on the borough at the local elections.
He said: "Covid-19 remains a live and present threat to us all, to our health and to our economy.
"And we must continue in our efforts to encourage uptake of the vaccine and to exercise our individual and corporate responsibilities by way of example and encouragement.
But he said: "Our work towards recovery and the diligent use of the government funding that we have been allocated creates opportunity not just to push back on the ravages of Covid, but also to create new opportunities for everyone that lives in the borough."
Cllr Burton said: "We must be bold so we can begin to deliver a new era of improving our borough for all of our residents.
Cllr Burton said one of the greatest opportunities was to develop a new town centre strategy.
He said: "Maidstone is the County Town of Kent. Maidstone is the business capital of Kent.
"Let's not dwell on the negative aspects, but instead build a positive energy that can displace the darkness that lurks in certain places."
But he warned: "Anti-social behaviour and illicit dealings have no place here.
"I put on notice those that harbour in these areas that we will be taking back these places."
He said he had in mind Brenchley Gardens at certain times of the day, and other town centre streets which could sometimes be unwelcoming.
He suggested the town's regeneration started with the Lockmeadow project, the leisure complex in Barker Road recently acquired by the council. Work has just started on providing a new food hall on the premises, with a new children's play area, outdoor dining terrace, and improved public town square space to follow.
He said: "I sense a great opportunity that begins at Lockmeadow.
"Delivery has already commenced to bring new purpose and enjoyment there. To experience the newly upgraded cinema. For us to enjoy live music and other entertainment on the riverside. To share exciting and varied food.
"To feel safe and happy with our friends and families."
Cllr Burton encouraged people to wake up to the many positive attributes of the town that already existed. He said: "From Lockmeadow, look across at the spectacular Archbishop's Palace, the church and some of the finest heritage buildings that exist.
"Look up at the magnificent frontages of the buildings in the High Street. Begin to picture the buzz of Maidstone, its shops, its restaurants. This is the setting for so much that can be achieved."
He said people also needed to appreciate the attractions of the borough's rural areas: "with their wineries and distilleries, the airfield that buzzes with Spitfires, all set in the most beautiful Garden of England."
He said: "We all know the phrase Jewel in the Crown - well we have so many jewels hidden away in a tin in the bottom drawer. We need to restore those jewels back in a crown for all to see. And then Maidstone must wear her crown with pride once more."
Cllr Burton had a particular message for his fellow councillors.
He said: "I issue a challenge - and it is to join me in a race to the top.
"As politicians we're prone to criticise and condemn one another's ideas, to denigrate and disparage. That's a race to the bottom."
He said: "Instead when I or any one of us promotes a suggestion, a policy or an idea, take the best part and say how you would do even better, then I'll need to think how we can improve upon even that.
"That's a race to the top.
"Maidstone deserves us to do better - and we will."