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Development hoardings cast gloom over public footpath by Maidstone's old Sandling library


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The rather protracted redevelopment of the former Kent County Library site at Springfield in Maidstone has left residents in the dark - quite literally.

The developers - originally a company celled Peker Holdings - erected a wooden hoarding around the site while they carried out demolition work and submitted planning applications to Maidstone council. That process has been on-going since Peker purchased the site five and a half years ago in July 2016.

Only the graffiti shows up at night
Only the graffiti shows up at night

Unfortunately a number of street-lamps that lit the adjacent public footpath were on the library land (formerly owned of course by KCC) and are now hidden behind the hoardings. The remaining street standards are often obscured by trees.

The result is a length of footpath that is very dark.

One woman forced to use the path every evening to reach her home in Ringlestone said: "It's very dark and secluded down there with trees adding to darkness. In my opinion it is unsafe."

Cllr Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem) is the KCC member for the division.

He said: "When the hoarding went up around the development site, some of the lamps were behind the hoarding. At least one is out.

Ian Chittenden, Maidstone north east candidate, at the local government election count at The County Showground in Detling, Maidstone. Picture: David Antony Hunt (14041398)
Ian Chittenden, Maidstone north east candidate, at the local government election count at The County Showground in Detling, Maidstone. Picture: David Antony Hunt (14041398)

He said: "The lady is perfectly right, there is a very dark stretch for about 100 yards, not helped by the trees.

"I have petitioned KCC to look at putting in extra lighting, but been told there is no money to do it - at least until the next financial year.

"However the problem will be resolved in the long run when the old Springfield library site is finally developed.

"The current owner tried unsuccessfully to get a number of unacceptable planning applications through, but has now put the site up for sale.

"There is an offer on the table from another firm which is an option to buy, subject to achieving planning permission."

A defective street light on the wrong side of the hoardings
A defective street light on the wrong side of the hoardings

Cllr Chittenden said: "The proposed purchaser has looked at different mixtures of occupation and is currently considering the more normal mixture of private and affordable housing.

Cllr Chittenden said: "I understand a new planning application will be submitted in the next few months.

"When the development is completed, the hoardings will be removed.

"The footpath, which is adjacent to the site, will be lit by the development and we can ensure at the planning stage that proper lighting for the footpath is provided."

A Kent County Council spokesperson said: “It is important to us that everyone feels safe while walking at any time of the day or night, including while its dark.

The footpath during daylight hours
The footpath during daylight hours

He said: “This site at Chatham Road, Maidstone, presents unique challenges including existing streetlights now being located on private land and blocked by hoardings.

“We are aware of residents’ concerns and we will continue to explore solutions, including cutting back nearby vegetation.”

On a side note, Cllr Chittenden said there were problems with the current owners not keeping the hoarding in a satisfactory condition. He said it had become "a paradise for graffiti vandals."

He said: "Maidstone council has powers in relation to maintaining the street scene, and I've asked that they use them."

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