Local News

Grounds Maintenance Contract To Be Discussed

Grounds Maintenance Contract To Be Discussed

Councillors are being asked to approve a £1.48 million contract to maintain and improve Swale’s green spaces.

Swale Borough Council confimed that they have reviewed their current ground maintenance contract which includes country parks, parks and recreation grounds, play areas, burial grounds and sports pitches around the borough.

After holding the contract since 2007, Blenwood Ltd re-tendered for the contract and were found to be the most financially viable option.

If approved, the contractor could be awarded the five-year contract when the current contract ends in January 2022.

Cllr Julian Saunders, cabinet member for environment at Swale, told SFM News: “We have more than 600 sites across Swale totalling almost 2 million square metres that need regular maintenance all year round. The grounds maintenance contract is one of our largest services and includes cutting grass, managing hedges, providing sports pitches and removing litter from our country parks, recreation grounds and play areas. When reviewing the contract, we wanted to make sure that we were getting a service that supports our commitment to the climate and ecological emergency, improved litter management and provided better local employment conditions.”

Cllr Eddie Thomas, deputy cabinet member for environment at the council, added: “The tender included a commitment from the successful contractor to pay a real living wage, reduce pesticides, increase biodiversity, introduce electric vehicles and equipment, and provide litter clearance seven days a week. We are lucky enough to have such a huge number of green spaces, parks and beaches in Swale, and with that comes a responsibility on our contractors to maintain a safe space for everybody to enjoy.”

The grounds maintenance contract will be discussed the next council cabinet meeting on Wednesday 22nd September at Swale House.

The meeting agenda and full report can be found here.

Suspected Stolen Cigarettes Seized in Sittingbourne

Suspected Stolen Cigarettes Seized in Sittingbourne

Thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes, suspected to be stolen, have been seized following a police pursuit in Sittingbourne.

Officers recovered the tobacco last Thursday (9th September) after witnessing a van drive past them on the wrong side of the road near the A2 at around 2.15pm.

Patrols requested the vehicle to stop however it failed to do so. A short pursuit then took place, before the driver and passenger decamped the vehicle.

Officers located a man at Sittingbourne Train Station, believed to be the driver of the car, and he was arrested.

Following a search of the van officers recovered approximately £16,000 cigarettes which were suspected to be stolen.

The suspect, who is in his 30's and from Lancashire, was detained on suspicion of dangerous driving, theft, failing to stop when directed and theft of a motor vehicle.

He has been released pending further enquiries.

Cleaner Stole Over £50,000 From Elderly Victim

Cleaner Stole Over £50,000 From Elderly Victim

A cleaner who stole around £50,000 from a customer has been jailed.

Jennifer Richards stole the money from an elderly man whom she cleaned for between October 2017 and February 2018.

The 50-year-old was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court yesterday (Monday 13th September) to two years and three months in jail after being found guilty of one count of fraud by false representation and one count of theft, following a trial.

Richards from Sittingbourne, befriended the man, who was in his 70s, during her employment where she worked for him for more than two years. However, while working for the man she used his bank details to transfer a total of £28,325 from his online account to her own. On several occasions she also used his bank card to make cash withdrawals totalling £4,540. She also asked the victim for a loan of £9,000 which he agreed.

The victim wrote Richards a cheque, but Richards told him the cheque would not clear quickly enough so, believing the cheque had been ripped up, he agreed to do a bank transfer of £9,000. The offender then banked the cheque, stealing a further £9,000.

The fraud came to light on 21st February 2018 when the man attempted to pay toward a credit card bill, but his debit card was declined. He contacted his bank who told him that thousands of pounds of withdrawals had been made on his account during the month of February.

Kent Police was contacted and an investigation was commenced, leading to Richards being arrested on 28 April 2018 after a warrant was carried out at her home. 

During the search officers found some bank statements which covered the time period of January 2017 to November 2017. On the bank statements there was one transaction from the victim’s account going into Richards’ account. Further bank statements were obtained which also showed large deposits from the victim’s account being paid to her.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Madeline Brackley told SFM News: "Richards was entrusted into the victim’s home, but she abused that trust in a despicable way. This was a planned and meticulous theft where she stole from him over several months and on several occasions. She preyed on his kindness and vulnerability but continued to deny her crimes resulting in a trial. I am pleased that she has received a custodial sentence."

Drunk Driver Who Caused Fatal Collision Jailed

Drunk Driver Who Caused Fatal Collision Jailed

A Sittingbourne driver has been jailed after a teenage girl who was a passenger in his car died following a collision near Ashford.

Fahren Smith was behind the wheel of a Suzuki Swift which had five passengers inside when it left Mundy Bois Road, Egerton and collided with a tree on the evening of Saturday 4th July 2020.

Millie Greenway, 17, suffered serious injuries in the collision and died in an ambulance on the way to hospital. The car's four other passengers all sustained serious injuries and continue to receive ongoing treatment.

Smith, of West Street, was arrested on the night of the collision and was later charged with causing death by dangerous driving.

The 20-year-old later admitted that charge, along with four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and causing death while unlicensed and uninsured and was jailed for six years and four months at Maidstone Crown Court today (Monday 13th September). He will be banned from driving for four years upon his release from prison.

Investigators from Kent Police's Serious Collision Investigation Unit found that, on the night of the incident, Smith had been drinking alcohol with friends in a pub before driving to pick up three further friends. On his way back, his driving drew the attention of a passing police van, but he drove off at speed, evading the police vehicle in country roads near Maidstone. After drinking more alcohol at the pub, the six friends got back into the car. The group had no knowledge that Smith did not hold a driving licence or insurance for the car.

As the car exited the pub car park, Smith saw another police car and again drove off at speed. A witness saw the vehicle travelling at an excess speed before it left the road and crashed into the garden of a property. Police medics, paramedics and an air ambulance attended the scene to treat the injured and, following his discharge from hospital, Smith was arrested having failed a roadside breath test. He was later found to be over twice the legal drink drive limit.

Investigating officer PC Lee Berridge, of Kent Police's Serious Collision Investigation Unit, told SFM News: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Millie Greenway, whose life was so tragically cut short by this collision, as well as the victims who continue to suffer both physically and psychologically. Smith's actions were reckless, having no regards for the rules of the road or the safety of his passengers. He twice tried to evade police on the night of the incident, with the second occasion while his car was dangerously overloaded. Driving laws are in place to protect motorists, passengers and the public and I urge young people, and all drivers, to behave responsibly when behind the wheel to avoid unnecessary loss of life like that in this case."

Thousands Of Cannabis Plants Found In Leysdown

Thousands Of Cannabis Plants Found In Leysdown

Detectives investigating drug supply in Swale have arrested and charged five people following the search of the disused Merlins nightclub on the Isle Of Sheppey.

Officers attended the building on Leysdown Road in Leysdown on Friday (10th September) afternoon, where they found four separate rooms containing a total of more than 3,000 cannabis plants.

Five men were arrested at the scene and have all been remanded in custody ahead of their appearance at Medway Magistrates’ Court tomorrow (Monday 13th September).

They are Thomas Dunne, aged 69, and his son Tommy Dunne, 22, of Leysdown Road, both of whom have been charged with cultivating cannabis and abstraction of electricity, and Indrit Gaxhenji, 34, Oligert Alija, 19, and Arditi Hoxha, 18, all of no fixed address and who have also been charged with cultivating cannabis.

It is understood that parts of Leydown were without electricity for a large part of Friday evening whilst UK Power Networks dealt with disconnecting supply to the cultivation.

Lack Of Secondary School Places To Be Discussed

Lack Of Secondary School Places To Be Discussed

Swale Borough Councillors are set to be discussing the lack of options for secondary school places in Sittingbourne and Sheppey at the next round of area committee meetings.

At the Sittingbourne and Sheppey meetings, councillors will receive an introductory paper from Swale Council Leader, Roger Truelove, a statement from Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson, and a presentation from Marisa White, Area Education Officer at Kent County Council (KCC) outlining how the provision of secondary schools can be improved.

Cllr Roger Truelove, leader at the council, said: “We know education is not a borough council service, but elected members are well aware of the distress caused to families because of the shortage of secondary school places in Swale. This year, many youngsters have been allocated spaces at schools that were not their first choice. As an authority wishing to see progress in our local economy, we want to see an expansion of skills to help young people access good jobs in Swale. The provision of vocational schooling is important to us, and although perspectives will be different in our different areas, we fully support the possibility of a new school in north west Sittingbourne. It is also important that young people have more choice on the Isle of Sheppey.

He went on to add: “Everybody is welcome at the area committee meetings, they are a forum for the public to have their say on local issues that are important to them. I encourage anybody who is affected by this issue to come and join us.”

Upcoming area committee meetings:

Tuesday 7th September

Kemsley Hall



Tuesday 14th September

Minster Working Men’s Club



Council To Support 'Climate And Ecological' Emergency

Council To Support 'Climate And Ecological' Emergency

Swale Borough Council is supporting local organisations and community groups to host 27 events around the borough for Great Big Green Week.

Seventeen local organisations will be hosting a variety of events ranging from litter picks and webinars to art workshops and a giant whale installation circus to celebrate action on the climate and ecological emergency for the week-long event.

Great Big Green Week is a national week of events running from Saturday 18th to Sunday 26th September ahead of the global climate conference, COP26, in November.

The council has been working with The Climate Coalition to provide over £5,000 funding to support local events around the borough.

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for the climate emergency at the council, Told SFM News: “We’ve allocated 17 grants totalling over £5,000 to local businesses, organisations, groups and charities in support of their Great Big Green Week events. People can attend any of the 27 events including exhibitions, roadshows, litter picks, workshops, awareness days and tree planting starting on Saturday 18th September. We have roadshows in Faversham, Sittingbourne and Sheerness throughout the week with 150 free pollinator-friendly plants to give away, and lots of fun events around the borough".

He went on to add:  “In Sittingbourne there will be a youth forum for young people to pledge their actions on the climate emergency and a variety of events at Milton Creek Country Park including mindfulness workshop, turning old boots into bird boxes and making mutant flower artwork from plastic drinks bottles with a local artist. People can also join in orchard clearing and tree planting at Oare community orchard, create pollinator patches around Painters Forstal and Ospringe, and Diversity House will be hosting a week-long event. There are lots of family activities to get involved in across the borough and we encourage everybody to get involved and help us tackle the climate and ecological emergency.”

For more information on how you can get involved please visit: www.greatbiggreenweek.com/find-an-event.

Four Men Jailed After Violent Eastchurch Attack

Four Men Jailed After Violent Eastchurch Attack

An assault, which happened in front of terrified families at a caravan park in Eastchurch last summer, has led to four men being handed jail terms.

Jason Taylor Snr, Oliver Taylor, Carl Allam and Jason Taylor Jnr were all jailed for the violent incident which resulted in the victim being punched and knocked unconscious before the group fled.

The victim was attacked during the day at a caravan park in Warden Road on Wednesday 16th June 2020 by Jason Taylor Jnr, aged 26 and of Mountview in Borden.

The incident happened after an argument broke out outside one of the caravans. Following this the group attended the front counter at the caravan park where Taylor Jnr started to attack a man in his 60s while holding a machete.

During the disturbance Allam, 31, of Coldharbour Lane, Kemsley, used a large Katana bladed knife to scare off the victim’s family and members of the public by waving the knife at them.

Oliver Taylor, 25, of Canterbury Road, Sittingbourne, then used a baseball bat where he inflicted further head injuries to the victim.

The three Taylors (pictured) then surrounded the victim where he was punched in the face knocking him unconscious. They then fled the scene leaving the victim on the floor and continued to shout at other people in the park on their way out.

After the incident, the man was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries and has since recovered.

Following an investigation all four men were arrested and later charged with one count each of violent disorder. They each admitted the charges and were jailed on Tuesday (31st August) at Maidstone Crown Court.

Jason Taylor Jnr was jailed for two years and seven months while his father, 50, of Mountview, Borden, was handed a two year and six-month sentence. Carl Allam and Oliver Taylor were both sentenced to two years and five months in jail. 

Detective Sergeant Shaun Vidgeon of Swale’s Criminal Investigation Department told SFM News: "This was a frightening incident which happened in broad daylight in front of many terrified people including children. The victim was subjected to a prolonged and vicious assault, which resulted in a complex and time-consuming investigation in order identify those responsible, and I’m pleased that a jail term has been imposed on all of those involved."

Phoenix House Home To Bus Shelter Project

Phoenix House Home To Bus Shelter Project

The doors of Phoenix House, on Central Avenue, re-opened this week as the new home for The Bus Shelter Kent Project.

The Bus Shelter Kent Project offers hot meals and food parcels to those in need and also helps to find accommadation for anyone who finds themselves homeless in the Sittingbourne area.

After coming out of lockdown the group were using the car park but have now received the keys to the building, previously occupied by Swale Community Centres.

Their Open Day (Thursday 26th August) saw nearly 50 meals being served, with help from Morrisons Sittingbourne.

The service will now be available at Phoenix House between 10:00am and 2:00pm Monday to Friday and all donations are greatfully received.

Firefighters Tackle A Large Haystack Blaze

Firefighters Tackle A Large Haystack Blaze

The Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) were at the scene of a haystack fire on Quinton Road earlier today (Thursday 26th August).

They were called to the scene just after 11:00am and one fire engine was in attendance, with crews using drag rakes and a hose reel jet to prevent further fire spread.

No casualties were reported. 
Firefighters asked those living or working in the Quinton Road and Sonora Way areas to keep all windows and doors closed as a precaution due to the smoke but this was lifted at 2.20pm when the fire was finally extinguished.


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