Local News

SBC To Introduce Air Quality Anti-Idling Legislation

SBC To Introduce Air Quality Anti-Idling Legislation

Councillors have approved powers that allow Swale Borough Council to issue Fixed Penalty Notices to people who leave their vehicle idling while not in use.

The powers mean that anybody who leaves their engine running unnecessarily while not in use can be issued a £20 fixed penalty notice if they do not turn off their engine when asked. Anti-Idling regulations came into effect in 2002 and apply to all vehicles including cars, taxis, buses and all commercial vehicles. Swale say that research shows that an idling vehicle can emit up to 20 times more of some pollutants that one travelling at 32mph.

Every minute a car idles it produces enough exhaust emissions to fill 150 balloons with harmful chemicals including cyanide, NOx and PM2.5. These microscopic pollutants can cause asthma and worsen chronic illness such as lung cancer and emphysema and can be particularly damaging for children.

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for the environment at the council, told SFM News: “These new powers will become part of our air quality action plan to protect residents against further pollution. By enforcing this legislation, we hope to raise public awareness about the damage that can be caused to people’s health by leaving your car idling unnecessarily. We’ll focus on educating drivers to help provide cleaner air across the borough, particularly for residents who live in Air Quality Management Areas and children going to and from school every day. We don't want to issue fixed penalty notices, and it will be a last resort, but we do want to enforce the anti-idling regulations more effectively to improve air quality. We’ve seen a huge improvement in air quality this year as people stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and those improvements have continued as people use alternative modes of transport.  We want to encourage people to continue the good work and walk, cycle and use public transport wherever possible to help us provide cleaner air for the borough.  We already have an anti-idling campaign in action at three local schools via the Clean Air for Schools campaign, so the introduction of this legislation will allow us to extend this campaign across the borough. Leaving your car idling for just 10 minutes every time you do the school run creates 1,520m³ of excess pollutant fumes every year which is enough to fill two jumbo jets.”

Now approved, the council say they will work to install the new measures later this year.

For more information about improving air quality in Swale visit www.swale.gov.uk/air-quality.

M2 Motorway Dangerous Driver Jailed

M2 Motorway Dangerous Driver Jailed

A dangerous driver, who severely injured another motorist, has been jailed.

Hughie Coyle, 22, of Springhouse Road, Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday (31st July) to three years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and one count of driving while disqualified.

He was charged after being arrested on Saturday 18th May 2019 following a collision near a service station on the London-bound carriageway of the M2 between junction 5 and junction 4.

He caused life changing injuries to another driver after dangerously driving a gold Volvo estate car which collided with a black Citroen Berlingo van at around 2.30pm.

Coyle was being followed by an unmarked police car after officers became suspicious of the vehicle. Prior to the collision officers confirmed that he had been weaving in and out of traffic and driving at speeds of around 90mph. He then exited the M2 towards the Moto service station and started to speed up before he collided with the black van which caused the vehicle to spin and the driver to be ejected.

Coyle’s car then collided with a raised kerb which caused a wheel to be ripped off and the car to set alight before its momentum took it into another vehicle, which sustained minor damage. When the estate came to a stop, he fled the scene on foot and was pursued by one of the officers who had been in the unmarked police car and was promptly arrested. The driver of the van was taken to a London hospital via air ambulance and suffered life changing injuries as a result of the collision. A passenger inside the van was taken to a local hospital as a precaution following the incident.

A 19-year-old woman, who was a passenger inside Coyle’s car, was also arrested at the scene, but later released without charge.

Following the incident Coyle was released pending further investigation and was recalled to prison having breached his probation. He was later released on licence and charged with the driving offences via postal charge. A warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear at court and he was placed on Kent Police’s Most Wanted list and was later apprehended.

As part of sentencing he was also disqualified from driving for more than six years which will come into effect upon his release from prison. He was also further sentenced to eight months in jail for an unconnected assault.

Kent Police referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to the proximity of the unmarked police vehicle prior to the collision. An investigation found no fault on behalf of the officers who had been pursuing Coyle.

Investigating officer PC Dawn Smith, of Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, told SFM News: ‘Coyle’s reckless and dangerous driving endangered himself and other road users and resulted in an innocent member of the public receiving serious life changing injuries which he has to face every day. He attempted to evade officers prior to the collision and immediately after and continued to do so even after he was charged. I’m pleased he has been sentenced and I hope this can offer a little comfort to those affected by his actions on this day.’

Firefighters Tackle Field Fire Near Sittingbourne

Firefighters Tackle Field Fire Near Sittingbourne

Stock Picture

Kent Fire and Rescue Service were called earlier today (Monday 3rd August) to field of corn stubble and straw alight off of Bottom Pond Road, Wormshill, just outside Sittingbourne.

Three fire engines were sent to the scene and crews used hose reel jets, beaters and water from portable tanks (called flexi packs) to put the fire out.

There were no reported casualties and the cause is not yet known. 

Appeal After Fatal Overnight Collision On The M2

Appeal After Fatal Overnight Collision On The M2

Information is being sought following a fatal collision on the M2 near Sittingbourne overnight.

The incident, which involved two cars, took place on the Londonbound carriageway, close to the junction 5 exit, at around 12.50am in the earky hours of this morning (Monday 3rd August) and involved a blue Toyota Yaris and a black BMW 320D. The sole occupant of the Toyota, a 34-year-old man from Rochester, died at the scene.

A 26-year-old man, from Chatham, was also arrested for causing death by dangerous driving and he remains in custody as enquiries continue.

Serious collision investigators from Kent Police are investigating the circumstances and the Londonbound M2 is currently closed between junctions 6 and 5 to allow enquiries to take place at the scene.

Officers would also like to obtain any dashcam footage from motorists who were travelling on the M2 and captured the cars travelling in the moments leading up to the collision. This includes footage that may have been recorded by people travelling on the opposite carriageway.   

They would additionally to speak with anyone who has any other information that can help them establish the full circumstances.

Anyone with information is asked to call Kent Police on 01622 798538 quoting KH/DC/066/20.

Council Opens Second Round Of Discretionary Grants

Council Opens Second Round Of Discretionary Grants

Small businesses in the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry could be eligible for support from Swale Borough Council’s second round of discretionary grants.

The second round of the discretionary grants scheme is aimed at those businesses who directly support Swale’s visitor economy and who haven’t yet qualified for any government grants to support them through the impact of COVID-19.

The council has already handed out more than £1 million in discretionary grants designed to help specific types of micro and small businesses who were not eligible for the small business grant scheme or the retail, leisure and hospitality grant schemes offered by the government.

Now that 130 businesses have received their grants, the council is opening the discretionary scheme for a second round.

Cllr Monique Bonney, cabinet member for economy and property at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “The government guidelines on who should receive the discretionary grants were very strict in the first round. Now that we’ve helped 130 businesses who fell into the categories of flexible workspaces, market trader’s, B&Bs and charities, we are adding another category for businesses that specifically support our visitor economy. This includes tourism businesses and our hospitality and leisure service providers who are crucial to helping get our local economy going, especially now the summer is here, and lockdown restrictions are easing. We have £400,000 left in the pot to give to eligible businesses and if we have some remaining after this round, we may open the scheme up for a third round to expand the criteria even more. Local businesses are important to the community and we’re doing everything we can to support them. As well as the discretionary grants, we’ve also paid more than £27 million in small business and retail grants.

The grant scheme is open from Wednesday 22nd July for one week only.

Now that the first four categories have received support, a fifth category has been added:

  1. small businesses in shared premises or other flexible workspaces, e.g. industrial parks, science parks, incubators etc, which do not have their own business rates assessment
  2. regular market traders who do not have their own business rates assessment
  3. B&B’s that pay council tax instead of business rates
  4. charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief that could otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief
  5. businesses that directly support Swale’s visitor economy; this can include tourism, hospitality & leisure service providers but does not include sporting activity providers and/or supply chain businesses.

For more information about what help is available for businesses visit www.swale.gov.uk/advice-for-businesses.

Businesses wanting to sign up for updates from the council should email edu@swale.gov.uk.

Four Men Charged After Disturbance In Sittingbourne

Four Men Charged After Disturbance In Sittingbourne

Four men have been charged following a disturbance in Sittingbourne over the weekend.

Kent Police were called to a report a large group of men had become involved in an altercation in West Street at around 11.35pm on Friday (17th July) evening.

Many of those involved are then reported to have travelled to the nearby train station and four 18-year-old men, all from Chatham, were arrested in connection with the disturbance on the same night.

Devonte Lesley, of Huckleberry Close, Owen Godfrey, of Rover Road, Harry Harrison, of Kingston Crescent, and Taylor Hayes, of Mountbatten Avenue, Chatham, have since been charged with using threatening behaviour with intent to cause fear of violence.   

They have each been released on bail to appear to appear at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on Monday 17th August.

Following a review of CCTV, officers also believe a man was injured as part of the wider disturbance and would like to speak with him so they can check on his wellbeing. Witnesses have reported he speaks with an Eastern European accent.

Investigators also believe there are numerous witnesses yet to provide information which could help identify further suspects.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Kent Police on 01795 419119 quoting 46/123032/20 or, alternatively they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers free and anonymously by calling 0800 555 111 or using the anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org.

Council Approves Town Centre Car Park Concession

Council Approves Town Centre Car Park Concession

Town centre visitors across the Borough will now get 30 minutes extra on all parking tickets bought at Council run town centre car parks, from Saturday (18th July)

Councillors approved an urgent motion at last night's (Wednesday 15th July) Annual Meeting of Swale Borough Counci (SBC).

It's a temporary measure and will be in place until Wednesday 30th as part of the authority's response to the coronavirus pandemic, utilising a government 'New Burdens' grant to pay for the concession.

It was introduced as rules around spcial distancing mean that more queues are likely with businesses taking longer to serve customers when people pop in to town.

SBC's Leader, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab), told SFM News: "We are now going to let drivers have an extra half hour in all of our town centre car parks, which will give them longer to look around the shops, visit a cafe and hopefully stay a bit longer. We w2ould have loved to have made it 2 hours but financally we just couldn't afford it. We are currently looking at a £4M shortfall due to Coronavirus".

Motorists still have to pay at least 50p but the 30 minutes will be extended to a full hour.

The council's officers did warn members, prioir to the meeting, that the move would cost the council £96,000 in lost pay and display income and another £13,000 in a lack of fines/enforcement action.

Villagers Told To Close Windows And Doors

Villagers Told To Close Windows And Doors

People living in Iwade are being  advised to close windows and doors as a precaution, due to smoke coming from a fire in Raspberry Hill Lane earlier this morning.

Two fire engines responded to reports of a large out of control bonfire at around 2.15am and crews worked to make the area safe.

One fire engine remains on the scene to maintain a watching brief as it burns itself out under controlled conditions – as a result a smoke plume may been seen in the area.

There are no reported casualties and the fire is being treated as suspicious.

Stay tuned for the latest information.

Motorcyclist Jailed For Fatally Injuring Teenager

Motorcyclist Jailed For Fatally Injuring Teenager

A motorcyclist who fatally injured a teenager has been jailed for five years and three months.

Robert Varrier, 29, of Limehouse Court, Sittingbourne, dangerously drove an off-road motorcycle on a residential street on Thursday 16th April before he colliding with a 17-year-old boy.

The teenager was attending a funeral and walking along Tonge Road, Sittingbourne, when he was hit by the vehicle at around 10.42am. He sustained serious head injuries and was flown to a London hospital where he died 3 days later on 19th April.

During the incident Varrier also seriously injured a 27-year-old man from Sittingbourne. He was taken to a local hospital where he has since recovered.

After the collision Varrier attempted to evade capture and left the scene, however officers arrested him at his home address at around 4:00pm on the day of the incident.

He was charged on 19th April and subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He was sentenced to five years and three months in jail when he appeared at Maidstone Crown Court early today (Thursday 9th July).

Varrier was also banned from driving for three years which will come into effect when he is released from prison. He was also ordered to take an extended retest.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Lee Neiles, of Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, told SFM News: "Robert Varrier undertook a dangerous and appalling level of driving on a residential street among a large group of pedestrians having absolutely no regard for anyone else's safety. Following the collision his main concern was evading capture and prosecution and he only admitted his guilt several weeks later when he realised the evidence secured and presented was so vast it gave him no choice but to plead guilty. This case has highlighted the devastation of driving dangerously on our roads, in particular performing stunts on off-road motorcycles. Not only has the driver received a prison sentence, he has to live with the fact that he has caused someone's death for the rest of his life."

Police Search Warrants Uncover Large Sum Of Cash

Police Search Warrants Uncover Large Sum Of Cash

Two people have been arrested and more than £30,000 in cash has been seized following the search of a number of properties in Spade Lane in Hartlip.

Kent Police detectives, investigating the theft of vehicles across the county, carried out the pre-planned searched warrants on Tuesday (7th July) morning at around 7:00am.

Officers seized the cash and arrested two men aged 42 and 46 on suspicion of conspiracy to steal. They both remain in police custody whilst enquiries continue.

A suspected stolen motorhome and van were also seized by police.

Since January 2020 Kent Police has received multiple reports of stolen cars, vans and caravans taken from towns including Dover, Canterbury, Folkestone, Faversham, Gillingham and Maidstone with a value totalling more than £50,000.

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