Local News

Council Meeting Passes Motion On GP Provision

Council Meeting Passes Motion On GP Provision

The leader of Swale Borough Council, Cllr Tim Gibson, will write to the Government to ask for help to combat the shortage of general practitioners (GPs) in the borough. 

The request follows the unanimous passing of a motion proposed by Cllr Lloyd Bowen, and seconded by Cllr Gibson, at this week's full council meeting on Wedmesday (11th October), where councillors agreed on the need for more Government support.

Swale has one of the lowest levels of fully-trained GPs per 1,000 patients in England – 0.39 in 2022, compared to 0.58 in the rest of the country.  That means on average each local GP has more than 2,500 patients.

Cllr Gibson will write to Steve Barclay, the Secretary of State for Health, asking him to work with the council to provide innovative, funded solutions to encourage more GPs to relocate to Swale. 

Cllr Tim Gibson, Leader of Swale Borough Council, told SFM News:  “Access to healthcare is a fundamental right and GPs play an important central role, especially with diagnosis and referral. Unfortunately, there is a dire shortage of GPs and recruitment is not able to keep up with the numbers leaving the profession. Couple this with an increase in demand due to the population growth of Swale, hospitals that were already stretched are now under even more pressure. There are some places in Swale where there are over 7000 people to just one fully trained GP, this is completely unacceptable and needs to be resolved. 

Cllr Gibson went on to add: “Following the urgent motion at the council meeting we are asking the government to help us solve these issues, through funding and innovative solutions. The cost of living and housing in our area is stated as one of the biggest reasons GPs won’t relocate to Kent. We need to make Swale an attractive option for new GPs to locate to and financial assistance from the government given to the council and GPs to assist with the cost of housing would go a long way.” 

For more details, including the meeting agenda, and a link to a recording of the meeting once available, visit the council website here


New Waste Collection Vehicles To Be Named

New Waste Collection Vehicles To Be Named

Local residents are being invited to help name Swale Borough Councils’ new fleet of waste collection and street sweeper vehicles.

Swale Borough Council wants people to get creative and help name 24 new waste collection vehicles and four new street cleansing vehicles that will be working across the borough from March.

The vehicles are currently being built as part of the new waste and street cleansing contract with SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd.

The brand-new fleet will "help the council deliver improved waste collections and street cleansing services across the borough in a more environmentally friendly way. They will continue to collect general waste and recycling on alternate weeks, as well as collecting food waste separately every week, which is required by law".

These new vehicles will ensure the council have the capacity for all residents of Swale to recycle their food waste, every week with some vehicles will also be dedicated to the garden waste subscription service.

The contract begins on 25th March 2024 and will make use of the latest technology such as these new vehicles.

Cllr Rich Lehmann, chair of the Environment Committee, told SFM News: “These new vehicles will massively boost our ability to provide the crucial waste services that the Borough needs. This is one of the many improvements coming to our waste disposal services thanks to the new contract with SUEZ. They will replace the old fleet with new, more environmentally friendly vehicles to provide a more reliable and greener collection service. We want to get residents involved by asking for help to name the lorries that will be driving through their streets every week.

Cllr Lehmann went on to add: “It is a great opportunity for you to be creative and we’re hoping to get better suggestions than “Binny McBinface”! Please share your ideas with us via social media or by using the dedicated email address. We can’t wait to see all of your suggestions!”

You will be able to leave your suggested names in the comments of the Council's posts on  their Facebook page, or by emailing your ideas to NameABinLorry@Swale.gov.uk.

The campaign will be running from through until Tuesday 31st October.

The council will then create a shortlist of the best ideas which will allow the public to vote for their favourites.


Appeal For Witnesses Following "Dangerous Driving"

Appeal For Witnesses Following "Dangerous Driving"

Local Police officers, investigating allegations of dangerous driving, are appealing for witnesses.

Kent Police were called at 8.45pm last night (Friday 6th October) to a report of a van driving dangerously in St Michael’s Road, Sittingbourne.

Officers attended the scene alongside South East Coast Ambulance Service and Kent Fire and Rescue Service, where a local man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

He has since been bailed pending further enquiries.

Anyone with any information, relevant doorbell or dashcam footage, is asked to contact Kent Police on 01795 419 119, quoting reference 46/179308/23.

Alternatively they can also call Kent Crimestoppers FREE and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete the online form on their website.

Swale Independent Councillor Joins Labour

Swale Independent Councillor Joins Labour

Councillor Ann Cavanagh, who was elected to Swale Borough Council in May this year, as a Swale Independent representing Borden and Grove Park ward, has joined the Labour Group and will sit with Labour when the Council convenes its next Full Council meeting next week.

The balance of the Council will thus change to; Labour-16 seats; Swale Independents 12; Conservatives 11; Liberal Democrats 5 and Green Party 3. It will make no difference to the balance between the Coalition administration and the opposition, as Cllr Cavanagh is exchanging one coalition group for another.

Cllr Cavanagh told SFM News "Since being elected to Swale Borough Council in May, I have found the Labour Councillors very friendly and supportive. I have known Tim Gibson. Leader of the Council and the Labour group, for about 5 years. He clearly has the respect of the whole Council. Since the elections of 2019 and the creation of the Rainbow Coalition, which I found very exciting and positive for Swale, I have followed its progress with interest. So, when asked by the Swale Independents, part of the coalition, to stand, I thought it would be a privilege to be part of the coalition. However, having seen how Tim leads his group, and how welcoming his group has been to me as a new councillor, I believe I will flourish in this group. So, for me I feel that Labour will be a better fit and am excited at the thought of getting involved with Labour both locally and in the forthcoming general election.”

Tim Gibson, the Leader of Swale Borough Council and the labour group told SFM News: “Ann is most welcome into the Labour group and of course into the Labour Party. She has developed very good working relationships with my members. With a general election looming and people focussing on liberating us from the current chaotic government, it is good to know that we have added another strong local voice to our team”.

The Full Council Meeting is at 7:00pm on Wednesday 11th October in the Council Chambers on the 3rd Floor of Swale House in East Street, Sittingbourne.

Appeal To Find Owner Of Dogs Found In Bobbing

Appeal To Find Owner Of Dogs Found In Bobbing

The owner of two unaccompanied dogs found wandering on their leads is being sought by Kent Police officers.

The male and female dogs were found at around 10pm on Monday (2nd October) evening in Parsonage Lane, Bobbing.

Typically, unaccompanied dogs considered lost or abandoned are handed over to the local dog warden when their owners cannot be located. However, the circumstances in which the animals were found on Monday suggest their owner may be unaccounted for and officers are keen find them to ensure they are safe, as well as reunite them with their pets.

The dogs are believed to be between 12 and 18 months old, the male dog has a green collar, and the female dog is wearing a pink collar. One lead is blue and the other lead is green. The male dog has been neutered.

Officers have searched the Parsonage Lane area, including using the Kent Police drone, and have not been able to locate the owner.

Inspector Stephen Callow of Swale’s Local Policing Team told SFM News: "As the area is surrounded by countryside we are keen to make sure the dogs’ owner isn’t unaccounted for and I am asking anyone who recognises the animals to get in touch with us. We have checked them for a microchip, but they do not have one and at present we do not know who they belong to.’

Anyone with information is asked to call 999 quoting 03-0718 or, alternatively, they can call kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Council's Day Of Action To Crackdown On Fly-Tipping

Swale Borough Council (SBC) have teamed up with Kent Police’s Rural Task Force to crack down on suspected fly-tipping on a day of action collecting evidence and taking enforcement action for waste related crimes.  
SBC have confirmed that 8 vehicles were stopped and searched and 4 Fixed Penalty Notices were issued.  
Cllr Rich Lehmann, Chair of the Environment Committee at SBC told SFM News: "We as a council are determined to crack down on fly-tipping, it is an incredibly selfish act that spoils the environment for everyone. That is why our officers are regularly teaming up with Kent Police to give out penalty notices to clamp down on fly-tipping. It can be tempting to go with someone who offers a cheap way of getting rid of your waste, but you are likely to face a fine of £400 if any illegally carried or dumped waste leads back to you.  
Cllr Lehmann went on to add: “The fixed penalty notice legislation has changed recently, so we will be reviewing our position and looking at increasing fines for waste related offences like littering and fly-tipping. People say scrap metal has value and that it won’t be fly-tipped, but if someone’s getting rid of metal waste from building work, for example, we need to check where the non-metal waste has gone. We all have a legal duty to make sure our waste is disposed of responsibly, so you should always ask the waste carriers for their license and ask for a written receipt or transfer note. Help us keep Swale’s environment clean by disposing of your waste responsibly." 
Swale Borough Council have released some tips on what YOU can do to dispose of your waste responsibly:- 
They say that the fly-tippers often target households via social media or local advertising, luring customers in with cheap rates to dispose of unwanted furniture, building rubble or garden waste. However, these unlicensed waste carriers often simply dump the waste wherever they can get away with it, including in Kent’s country lanes.   
Householders or small businesses found to be using criminals to dispose of their waste can and are being prosecuted by local authorities in Kent with fixed penalty notices that go up to £400 per offence.  Failure to pay such an FPN may result in court action where fines can be significantly larger.  
To prevent this, householders should check whether someone is licenced to carry waste by visiting the Environment Agency website, or by calling 03708 506 506.   
It also helps if householders receive a written receipt or transfer note, including contact details, description of waste removed and details of where the waste is being taken to.  

Roman Fossils And Statue Discovered In Teynham

Roman Fossils And Statue Discovered In Teynham

Archaeological excavations near Teynham  have led to an exciting discovery of Roman artifacts, including a mausoleum and a stone statue of the Roman sea god Triton. The site was found during archaeological investigations related to a new housing development close to the A2 London Road, which follows the ancient Roman Watling Street.

During an initial site evaluation, fragments of chalk wall foundations and Roman cremation burials were discovered. As a result, Swale Borough Council, with advice from Kent County Council Heritage Conservation, required a 0.5 hectare archaeological excavation at site. The archaeological investigation works commenced late May 2023 by Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) who were appointed to conduct the investigation.

The recent excavations revealed elements of a 30m square walled enclosure surrounding a c.7m square structure. Further exaction works suggested the structure relates to a Roman mausoleum which contained a roman coin dating back to c.320 to 330 AD. The site also included Roman and possibly later burials with various grave goods. The highlight of the findings was the discovery of a remarkable stone statue, representing the sea god Triton.

Since the excavation in May, weekly meetings with various stakeholders, including RPS (A Tetra Tech company) consultant, CAT, Chartway and KCC Heritage Conservation, have been held to review site progress, excavation methodology and the importance of the Roman discoveries. The aim is to carefully bury and retain these key remains within the landscaped centre of the roundabout, making it accessible for generations to come to enjoy the rich heritage discovered.

The Triton statue has been carefully lifted and removed from the site for initial conservation works which have revealed the fascinating detail and craftmanship of the piece. Further research into the statue itself and the circumstances of its ritual burial are on-going.

Councillor Mike Baldock, Heritage Champion at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “This is an incredible and exciting discovery that once again underlines the rich heritage that we have in our Borough. The council regards Swale’s archaeology as one if its major assets which we are proud of and recognise in our Heritage Strategy. The site and the statue will generate a great deal of interest in our community, and we very much look forward to working with Chartway and the archaeologists to ensure that there are opportunities for local people to learn about and celebrate the finds and their Roman heritage.”   

Local Man Jailed Following 'Acid Attack' Threats

Local Man Jailed Following 'Acid Attack' Threats

A man from Sittingbourne, who stalked a woman and threatened to throw acid in her face, has been jailed.

Duncan Friend harassed and intimidated his victim over several weeks and also made threats with a knife, to people she knew.

Friend became known to the woman in December 2022 and in the weeks that followed bought her gifts including a bag, shoes, and scarf. By the end of January 2023, the victim became concerned by constant messages she was receiving on her phone from Friend, which included demands she needed to return the gifts to him.

Friend was unaware of where the victim lived, and the messages and abuse escalated as he sought to find her address. He also called her repeatedly on several different numbers, many of which were withheld.

Some of the threats were made through people known to the victim. On Friday 3rd February, a 999 call was made to police that Friend had attended an address in Chatham, linked to a friend of the victim. He was seen to take out a weapon, described as resembling a machete, from his trousers and wave it around whilst demanding the victim’s address. He was also heard shouting threats he would throw acid in the victim’s face and kill her.

Friend was arrested the same day and later bailed with conditions as officers sought to build a successful case. He continued to send threatening messages to people including the victim, and on Sunday 19th March an investigation by the North Kent Vulnerability Investigation Team (VIT) led to him being arrested again.

Friend, 51, of Woodstock Road, was charged with stalking involving serious alarm or distress (between 3rd February and 19th March 2023), and a count of possessing a knife in a public place. He pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court and on Tuesday 12 September was sentenced to two years and three months’ imprisonment. Upon his release from custody, Friend will be subject to a seven-year restraining order.

Investigator for Kent Police's VIT, Holly Felstead, told SFM News: "Duncan Friend subjected his victim to relentless harassment and intimidation and his actions have impacted deeply on her daily life. Friend has caused a huge amount of distress, fear and anxiety not only to the victim but to her friends and family. We are grateful that the victim has shown tremendous courage in coming forward and helping us secure this important sentence. I would like to praise her bravery in reporting these crimes to us and urge anyone who is being abused or harassed by someone they know to tell the police as soon as possible. Your safety is our priority and we will take whatever steps are open to us to protect you and bring to justice those who might harm you."


Concerns Over Proposed Changes To Youth Services

Concerns Over Proposed Changes To Youth Services

Swale Borough Council have raised concerns about Kent County Council (KCC) proposals to change youth services across the borough. 

The council has written to Kent’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Regulatory Services, Cllr Clair Bell, to set out its opposition to cut externally commissioned youth services, as part of proposals to create new family hubs to support children and families. 

Swale Borough Cllr Richard Palmer told SFM News: “The proposed new structure will cut externally commissioned youth services, which could see nine different types of provisions delivered by the Swale Youth Consortium being lost. The suggestion that outreach youth work will be provided by KCC is unclear, and we have doubts about if this would replace existing youth work or not. The proposed hubs would be in Sittingbourne, Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey. For Sheppey in particular, the proposed location in Queenborough is a key concern due to transport links across the Island".  

Cllr Palmer then went on to add: "The services that would stop under this proposal are in some of the more rural areas, or areas identified by local partners as higher levels of youth related ASB and crime, such as Faversham and Thistle Hill.  Another concern is not all young people will want to go to a physical building, making the outreach work the external youth services provide even more important. These services have been successful with 57 new sign-ups per month according to Brogdale CIC who are one of the key providers within the consortium, with demand almost doubling since 2021.  We firmly believe that the proposal to stop youth activities in Swale would have a very negative affect on our communities".

Cllr Palmer's final comments were: “Swale doesn’t have one central town so every area and town, even the most rural, must have access to the same level of service and this is unlikely to be achieved with the current proposal.  We already experience a high level of youth related antisocial behaviour and crime, without the opportunities offered by youth services this is likely to get even worse.” 

The consultation ends on Wednesday 13th September and you can have YOUR say here: https://kent.gov.uk/familyhubservices


Upgraded EV Charging Points Installed

Upgraded EV Charging Points Installed

Electric vehicle drivers will now be able to get a more reliable charge when visiting Sittingbourne, with Swale Borough Council (SBC) upgrading the EV charging points in the Bourne Place Multi-Storey Car Park. 

The previous chargers on the ground floor of the car park were unreliable and have now been replaced with two brand new Pod Point chargers.  

These offer a total of four charging outlets for electric vehicles to use, two 22KW fast chargers and two 7KW chargers.  

The new charge points will require payment for each KW hour used, the same as our other chargers, but EV drivers can park for free by simply scanning the QR code at the charging station and following the instructions.   

These improvements are part of what the the council says is "ongoing work to encourage the take up of the more environmentally friendly electric vehicles". 

Cllr Rich Lehmann, Chair of the Environment Committee at SBC told SFM News: "We are continually looking for ways to improve our electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Whether adding new charging stations around the borough or, as is the case here, improving the ones we already have. These new chargers are more reliable and will make it easier for people to charge their electric vehicles. There is also now a simple way to validate parking at the Bourne Place Multi-Storey Car Park when you are using the charging stations.  We want to promote the use of electric vehicles in Swale and are trying to make EV ownership as accessible and convenient as possible.”   

EV drivers can download the Pod Point app for more information on where to find the Pod Point chargers around Swale borough. 



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