Local News

Swale Council Proposes New Housing Company

Swale Council Proposes New Housing Company

Swale Borough Council is proposing to set up a housing company to help deliver affordable homes for local people in the area.

A report is going to the cabinet this evening (Wednesday 28th October) proposing the setting up a local housing company to increase the supply of affordable homes in the borough, without placing a financial burden on the council.

If approved, council-owned land at the old M&D bus depot in East Street Sittingbourne, Fountain Street and Cockleshell Walk car park would be transferred to the company to provide around 139 new properties, in exchange for an equity share in the company.

Ben J Martin, cabinet member for housing at the council, told SFM News: “The prospect of setting up of a housing company is a key indicator of the high priority we place on delivering decent affordable housing residents need, and, if approved, will enable us to intervene directly in the local housing market. It would also give us control of the density, location, environmental standards and management of any scheme, so we won’t be at the mercy of developers trying to maximise profit. By owning equity shares in the company, we can get an income stream on assets that should go up in value over time, which reduces the financial risk to the council. We estimate build costs, energy efficiency and lifecycle costs of developing, managing and maintaining the initially planned 139 properties to be up to £23 million, which we would initially pay for through 50-year loans to the company. If approved, the company will enable us to build additional affordable housing, on top of the ones provided through the planning system, and housing associations utilising their homes England grant money in Swale. This would be a real ray of hope for local people who are in need of local, affordable housing.”

Cllr Ghlin Whelan, deputy cabinet member for housing at the council, told SFM News: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to provide the affordable housing the borough so desperately needs. Social housing is a nationwide issue and councils are looking for ways to meet the demand without being at the mercy of large developers. The number of people needing local, affordable housing is only rising, and it’s our duty to do what we can to meet that need.”

Stay tuned to 106.9 SFM and we will bring you the latest on this story #WeAreAllAboutSittingbourne

Swale Infection Rate Almost Double Kent Average

Swale Infection Rate Almost Double Kent Average

New figures released by Public Health England (PHE) show that the Borough Of Swale has seen 90 new COVID-19 cases in a week - one in six of all positive tests recorded in Kent as a whole.

This recent outbreak has seen the infection rate jump to more than 200 in three areas on the Isle Of Sheppey, compared to a county average (Kent and Medway) of 49.4 per hundred thousand.

Five of the island's wards appear in the Top 6 of the county's hotspots:-                                                                            

                                                   Infection Rate            Number of cases              Weekly Rise

  • 1. Sheerness East                     239.6                             16                             10 (166.7%)
  • 2. Sheppey East                        231.1                             20                             10 (100.0%)
  • 3. Minster South                        222.3                             24                            14 (140.0%)
  • 4. Minster North                        172.2                              11                              6 (120.0%)
  • 5. Kennington (Ashford)             7                                    9                              5 (125.0%)
  • 6. Sheerness West                      5                                    9                             -6 (-40.0%)

Kent County Council’s Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, told SFM News that the situation is very concerning. "Cases are rising across the whole of Kent and Medway; however, we are seeing a worrying increase in cases across Swale and particularly on the Isle of Sheppey. There are a number of cases associated with residential settings, work-places and secondary schools and while some are contained outbreaks there may also be some community transmission, which is helping the virus to continue to spread. Therefore were urge the public in Swale to play their part by closely following social distancing, regular handwashing and the wearing of face coverings in public places to help keep the number of cases to a minimum.”

* The local numbers are still much lower than in areas such as Manchester (437.5) and Liverpool (642.5), where the tightest restrictions are already in place or are about to be introduced.

Five COVID-19 Cases At Westlands Secondary

Five COVID-19 Cases At Westlands Secondary

Five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the Executive Head Teacher at Westlands Secondary School here in Sittingbourne.

Simon Cox confirmed the number of positive cases in a letter to parents last Thursday (8th October). In the letter Mr Cox said: "In all there have been five confirmed cases of Covid here at Westlands Secondaryl. This appears to reflect the increasing infection rates across Swale, although less than 10% of our pupil population are at home due to Covid related issues. Almost all of these of these are isolating merely as a precautionary measure and have no symptoms whatsoever. The cases include two teachers, one of whom has now recovered and three pupils, two from the same household".

All staff and pupils who came in close contact with the five individuals were told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Teynham Homes Without Power After Two-Car Crash

Teynham Homes Without Power After Two-Car Crash

Picture: Twitter/@KentSpecials

Almost 2,000 people were without power last night (Friday 9th October) following a collision on Lower Road, Teynham, at around 8.05pm.

Kent Police were called to the scene in which an electricity pole was damaged and a spokesman for UK Power Networks told the SFM Newteam that electricity supplies to 1,877 villagers were interrupted following the incident. Power was restored to 220 of them by about 8.30pm with the remaining 1,657 customers having supplies returned to normal by 9.10pm.

The spokesman went on to say: "our engineers had to safely repair the pole which meant that they had to temporarily interrupt power to 28 customers but their supplies were restored by 11.20pm".

Council Appoints New Chief Executive

Council Appoints New Chief Executive

Swale Borough Councillors have approved the appointment of Larissa Reed as the new chief executive of the council.

The appointment was approved at last night’s (Wednesday, 7th October) full council meeting and follows the death of the previous chief executive Mark Radford in May.

Larissa is currently Executive Director of Neighbourhoods and Environment at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council where she is responsible for services including community safety, street cleaning, waste services, highways and parking, parks and open spaces, regulatory services and town centre management. She grew up in Faversham and began her local government career at Swale Housing Association as housing officer manager. She has extensive housing and local government experience and has been a director at Brighton and Hove City Council, Canterbury City Council and Thanet District Council.

Cllr Roger Truelove, Leader of the council, told SFM News: “We had some exceptional candidates for the role, and I’m delighted we are offering Larissa the position. She will bring a wealth of experience to the council and, having been born here, she shares our passion for the borough. The interview panel were unanimous in the decision to offer her the role, and I can’t wait to start working with her.”

Larissa told SFM News that she was: "very excited to have been appointed chief executive. I am looking forward to working with councillors, staff and communities to deliver the priorities of the council and achieve the best outcomes for our residents. There are many challenges ahead as we are still in uncertain times, but I look forward to getting started.”

The appointment followed a national recruitment process, which assessed 18 candidates to produce a shortlist of six. These went through a rigorous assessment process before three took part in the final interview stage on Wednesday 30 September.

Larissa is expected to take up the post in January 2021.

Council Leader Issues Coronavirus Statement

Council Leader Issues Coronavirus Statement

The Leader of Swale Borough council, Cllr Roger Truelove, has called for a renewal of "community spirit" to help people get through the next six months of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the last few weeks, the government has announced new measures to try to prevent the spread of the virus, including limiting opening hours for pubs, bars and restaurants, making collection of contact details a legal requirement for businesses, and making it illegal for groups of more than six people to gather socially.

Cllr Truelove's Statement reads: “Recent Government decisions have signalled a new phase in the fight against coronavirus. We are anticipating another set of extra responsibilities for our council and I am naturally concerned about unemployment and homelessness increasing. Having had the intense lockdown phase from March to June, we then had a period of comparative respite through the summer, with people patriotically eating out to help out. Now we are embarking on a long six-month winter of hibernation, with the possibility of further restrictions on individual lifestyles. We cannot underestimate the impact this may have on the economy but also on people’s wider health and especially mental health".

“People are going to find restrictions much harder to accept during the winter months and we will need to renew the community spirit of the first lockdown. We must not relax. We have had a comparatively low level of infection compared with some parts of the country and we must continue to follow the public health advice, to regularly wash our hands, wear masks and observe social distancing. At the same time, we must have a vision of our future as we come out of this crisis. Much will depend on the competence of our government, especially in tackling the severe economic climate. But as a Council we have to have a clear idea of where we want to go."

“We will continue to fight to protect Swale from unrealistic planning demands from government; to seek ways to provide more affordable housing; to fight the climate emergency locally, to work more closely with community voluntary groups, to build a local economy with wider job opportunities and make improvements to our town centres, our open spaces, our tourist centres and our heritage to increase our sense of pride in the place called Swale.”

For more information regarding COVID-19 and Coronavirus local please visit the council's website at: http://swale.gov.uk/news-and-your-council/coronavirus.

Witness Appeal After Assault In Sittingbourne

Witness Appeal After Assault In Sittingbourne

Kent Police are appealling for information following the report of a motorist being assaulted by a jogger in Sittingbourne yesterday (Tuesday 29th September) afternoon.

An altercation between the pair is reported to have taken place following a collision on St Michael’s Road at around 5.20pm. During the incident, the runner is said to have opened the driver’s door and assaulted the victim, a man in his 50s. He sustained facial injuries which required treatment at a local hospital.

The suspect is described as being white, in his late 20s and around 5 foot 10 inches tall with brown, wavy hair. He was wearing a light grey tracksuit at the time.

Kent Police officers are investigating the circumstances and would like to hear from anyone who witnessed the incident. They would also like to obtain dash camera footage, or privately held CCTV, that captures the incident.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Kent Police on 01795 419 119 quoting 46/174604/20 or, alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers free and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete an online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

KCC Cabinet Member Ignores Government Advice

KCC Cabinet Member Ignores Government Advice

Swale Borough Councilor (Cllr) Richard Palmer (pictured above) has public condemned the KCC (Kent County Council) Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport, Cllr Michael Payne, for ignoring residents’ concerns about the failure of KCC to fully refund money paid for the KCC school bus travel scheme that could not be used because of COVID.  

Cllr Palmer says that he has raised this with Cllr Payne on more than one occasion, but as yet, Cllr Payne has failed to respond to his concerns.

Cllr Palmer says “the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is clear that refunds must be made for parts of services or contracts not fulfilled owing to the current pandemic. It is time for KCC to do the right thing and issue refunds for periods that could not be used because of lockdown”. Cllr Palmer further states that “It is appalling that KCC has not complied with the Governments advice about refunds, which is on the Government website. This is further compounded by Cllr Payne ignoring this matter. Cllr Payne must now sort this out without delay and issue a public apology to those affected. I have emailed the link concerning the refunds, to Cllr Payne previously”.

The SFM News Team have asked Cllr Michael Payne for his comments on the above but as yet have not had a reply.

RSPCA Awards Council Two Gold Pawprint Awards

RSPCA Awards Council Two Gold Pawprint Awards

Pic: Tim Oxley and Melissa Herbert from the SBC Stray Dog Team

Swale Borough Council’s stray dog service has been highlighted as one of the best in the country by the RSPCA for the eleventh year in a row.

The service has been awarded the Gold Pawprint Award, which recognises good practice in animal welfare by local authorities in England and Wales. Alongside this award, the council has also been awarded the Gold Pawprint Award for Contingency Planning for the fourth year in a row.

The award for contingency planning is given to council’s that can demonstrate a comprehensive set of processes and procedures that protect animal welfare in the event of an emergency. The council also provides information to help animal-based businesses be prepared to look after their animals in the event of an emergency. 

Cllr Roger Truelove, leader of Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: "We’re delighted to be recognised for all the hard work we do in caring for stray dogs and the welfare of animals during an emergency. This is the fourth year in a row we’ve received the Gold Pawprints Award for contingency planning, which is well deserved for our resilience team who’ve been working hard to make sure we have procedures and processes in place to ensure the welfare of animals during an emergency.”

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for environment at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “The Gold Pawprints Award recognises us for going above and beyond to ensure the high welfare standards for the animals across the borough. Our stray dog team really does put their heart and soul into caring for the stray animals they find, as well as actively promoting the schemes and services we offer such as micro-chipping. We’ve received this award for 11 years in a row and we will continue to work hard to keep up the high level of service we’ve been recognised for.”

For news on stray dogs found in Swale, check the council’s twitter account or the service’s Facebook page.  

To find out more about how you can prepare to look after your animals during an emergency visit www.swale.gov.uk/emergency-pet-welfare.

To report a stray dog during normal office hours, the public should call 01795 417850 where arrangements will be made for the dog to be collected.

If a dog is found between 5pm and 9pm on weekday evenings, and between 9am and 9pm at weekends and on bank holidays, the public should ring the found stray dog line on 07795 237479.

Housing Allocation Consultation Coming To An End

Housing Allocation Consultation Coming To An End

People still have a few days to submit their opinion on the proposed changes to Swale Borough Council’s housing allocation policy.

The policy aims to provide a fair and transparent system that prioritises social housing by making efficient use of the homes available, promoting choice to applicants and developing sustainable mixed communities.

Agreed by the council's cabinet for public consultation in June, the eight-week consultation ends this coming Friday, (2nd October).

Proposed changes include tapering income considerations to provide a more realistic approach for single people and larger families that are at opposite ends of the spectrum is up for consideration. Another suggested change is moving homeless households from band C to B to make it easier for them to be moved from temporary housing into permanent accommodation. There is also a proposal to reduce the amount of time a resident is expected to have lived in the area from four to two years.

Cllr Ben J Martin, cabinet member for housing at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “We’re hopeful that these proposed changes to the housing allocation policy will have a positive outcome for residents who are in desperate need of social housing. The reduction in time needed in the borough, more realistic approach to income considerations, and changes that make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to move from temporary to permanent housing will prioritise those with the greatest need. Providing local and affordable housing is a key priority to use and we want to hear what local people think. We urge anybody who hasn’t yet taken part to get in touch and let us know your views.”

To find out more about the consumatation and take part visit www.swale.gov.uk/news-and-your-council/consultations/housing-allocations-policy-2020.


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