Published: 12:37, 06 August 2019
| Updated: 12:38, 06 August 2019
In these times of mass development it’s easy to forget where our most valuable assets lie.
The green belt seems constantly under threat from housing, but the town centre’s infrastructure lies waiting to be used.
Maidstone’s Crown Court building is growing out of date, with it needing regular maintenance and repeated leaks delaying trials.
But there’s one constant about the County Town – a river runs through it.
That’s why the Kent Messenger has a new vision, one it hopes can exploit Maidstone’s oldest asset to offer a floating market and restaurant complex and a destination walkway.
Naturally we’re not town planners or surveyors, but we hope revealing what could be done to capitalise on current development to free up space by the river will get people talking.
So here goes…
What if all of our courtrooms, crown, magistrates and coroners, moved next to Maidstone East station?
And what if we didn’t stop there – what if the new court complex was also our local police station?
Land next to Maidstone East has been earmarked for a total overhaul since 2003, but there has been little movement.
The public was promised department stores, but for much of the time development has laid dormant – the biggest step forward being the creation of a new entrance for the station at Maidstone East.
Our officers deserve the highest standard of facilities to do their jobs, as does every public servant in our justice system.
Using this land, which includes the former sorting office in Sandling Road, would also take advantage of the rail links at Maidstone East – handy for all workers and those attending different courts.
A united front from Kent Police, Maidstone Borough Council, Kent County Council and HM Courts and Tribunals service could see something special created.
Shifting services away from the current crown court site could make room for housing – helping to lessen the dependence on building mass estates in rural communities.
Don’t let the H word put you off.
Picture flats at the crown court site in Barker Road.
It’s a chance to open up that side of the river for walks and pathways so we can really take in the winding Medway.
Right now the path is looking dated, there are benches in desperate need of repair – this is a chance to bring it up to date and open it up for all to enjoy.
Just across the river, there’s the chance to instal floating bars, restaurants and markets. All in the shadow of 14th century All Saints Church.
The historical and 21st century sides of the river would be connected by Millenium Bridge – a nice touch right?
If you’re concerned about the impact of new housing and people, pause for a moment.
Imagine the money thatcould be injected into the town’s infrastructure from selling the sprawling crown court, along with Maidstone Magistrates Court andthe police station on Palace Avenue.
Not only that, but the new families coming to the town would be able to support and make the most of our town centre shops and businesses.
Isn’t it better to have housing here, where buses run regularly and there are three train stations all within walking distance, rather than a field surrounded by choked public transport?
Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council have designs for the former sorting office site, currently being finalised as part of a strategic vision.
The councils say time is needed to secure retail interest to create a mixed scheme of shops, offices and parking.
Let’s hope between everyone involved the final vision exploits the best Maidstone has to offer to create a bustling town centre – from river to rail.
Maidstone Borough Council has plans to change the look of Len House, currently home to Robins and Day’s Peugeot Garage, along with the Gala Bingo site at the bottom of Gabriel’s Hill.
Come September the plans are expected to be shared with the public, along with designs for Maidstone West and The Broadway, Baltic Wharf on the River Medway and Mote Road.
They should be made public on September 2.