Local News

Car Club Trial Launched In Sittingbourne

Swale Borough Council, Hiyacar, Car Club Trial Launched In Sittingbourne

Monday (6th March) saw Sittingbourne get it's own hybrid car club launch - in part due to the success of the three year low emissions car club trial launched in Faversham in April last year.

The vehicles are supplied by Hiyacar, in partnership with Swale Borough Council, and are vailable to the general public on a quick and free app-based sign up and verification through the Hiyacar app. So there is now an opportunity to rent 3 hybrid vehicles, located across the town, for as little as £3 an hour or £35 a day. The rental price also includes insurance, car cleaning and maintenance.

The hybrid vehicles are now available for hire from the following locations across the town: Spring Street car park, Bell Road car park and Albany Road car park.

Graeme Risby, CEO and Co-Founder of Hiyacar, told SFM News: “We’re thrilled to be working with Swale Borough Council again, to launch another low emission car club. It’s great to see the continued success of the Faversham car club trial, and we’re excited to be offering yet more Swale residents affordable access to these vehicles."

Cllr Julian Saunders, chair of Swale Borough Council’s environment committee, told SFM News: “After the success of the first car club in Faversham last year, it’s great to be extending the trial to Sittingbourne. We are excited to be rolling this trial out further around the borough as a way to try and encourage alternative travel. The car club offers users an affordable, pay as you go alternative to car ownership, and has been shown to improve air quality and encourages more walking and cycling.”

Litter Angels Winner Presented With Poster

Litter Angels Winner Presented With Poster

Photo (L-R): Matt Hogben, Gordon Henderson MP, Angel Oduneye-Folarin and Paul Crocker

A Litter Angel has had her winning poster design put up in local McDonald’s car parks following last year’s anti-litter poster competition in primary schools across Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

Angel Oduneye-Folarin, who attends Bobbing Village School, won the 2022 Litter Angels competition. She was presented with a certificate, a personalised mug and a £50 cheque, whilst her winning poster was printed onto a metal plaque and will be displayed in the car parks of the McDonald’s restaurants, along with previous winning posters.

Local MP Gordon Henderson helped Paul Crocker and Matt Hogben from McDonald’s present Angel with her very own plaque to hang in her bedroom.

Mr Henderson, who created the Litter Angels charity, told SFM News: "The essence of the Litter Angels competition is that it highlights to young people the anti-social nature of litter. The youngsters really get it! Last year 41 primary schools across Kent took part in the competition and this year we hope for many more."

You can find out more about the local charity at: https://www.litterangels.org .


Sittingbourne Parkrun Celebrates Its 7th Birthday

Sittingbourne Parkrun Celebrates Its 7th Birthday

It was Sittingbourne Parkrun's seventh birthday on Saturday (25th February) with event number 290 and a celebration with cheers, cake and coffee.

Parkrun legend, 82 year old John Waterman, completed his 250th parkrun milestone as part of the celebrations.

Since the event started there has been 6,480 participants with a whopping 8,896 personal bests recorded. All made possible by 752 volunteers including four legged friends Bertie, Milo, Mollie and Blue to name a few.

Yvonne Crawford, Sittingbourne's Event Director, told SFM News: “Parkrun is a great way to keep fit and be part of a community. We were pleased to be able to celebrate our seventh birthday in style with cheers, cake and, thanks to parkrun’s sponsorship with De’Longhi, their coffee van which has been visiting events across the country since 2022.”

Yvonne added: “We mustn’t forget our hi viz heroes, without whom we couldn’t have put on such an event, and of course without our participants there would be no parkrun!  We are already planning for our next milestone event our 300th parkrun on 6th May 2023!”

The free 5km event takes place at Milton Creek Country Park every Saturday at 9:00am and is designed for people of all ages and abilities – including walkers, as there is now a new parkwalk volunteer role. 

It's all made possible by more than a dozen volunteers each week and they are always looking for new volunteers. Full details can be found on their website: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/sittingbourne

The local Parkrun was set up in February 2016 and regularly sees around 150 people take part every week here in Sittingbourne.

Dispersal Order Issued To Tackle Nuisance Vehicles

Dispersal Order Issued To Tackle Nuisance Vehicles

A dispersal order will be in place over the weekend to tackle nuisance vehicles in a rural area of Sittingbourne.

It will operate from 7pm tonight (Friday 24th February) until 7pm on Sunday (26th February) and covers Sheppey Way, Old Ferry Road, Swale Way and Barge Way near Kemsley Fields.

The order is being implemented by Kent Police due to an increase in reports of nuisance vehicles and dangerous driving in the district at weekends. It allows officers to stop anyone involved in anti-social behaviour and move them on from the area.

Sergeant Ryan Chase, from the Swale Community Safety Unit, told SFM News: "Residents have reported concerns about the dangers posed to other road users and the impact on the quality of life of the community. The order gives our officers additional powers to move on anyone causing a nuisance and, if necessary, arrest those who return to the area once dispersed. Those who persist in this behaviour also risk having their vehicles seized."

Anybody who wishes to report instances of anti-social behaviour near them can report it online via the Kent Police website.

Swale Councillors Agree 2023-2024 Budget

Swale Councillors Agree 2023-2024 Budget

At a packed Full Council Meeting, at Swale House last night (Wednesday 22nd February), Swale Borough Councillors finally agreed to a savings package of more than £2.8 million in the next financial year through a restructure of services and a review of council fees and charges.

The savings proposals were approved and the meeting also agreed that the Swale element of the council tax for the next financial year would increase by 2.99% - a rise, they say, of less than 11p a week for a typical band D property.

Cllr Mike Baldock, Leader of the Council, told SFM News: “We’ve seen a significant increases in our costs in the last year, and there has been a rise in demand for our help with things like housing as local people struggle with the cost of living. After years of cuts to our funding from central Government, we have been left to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Despite this, we have worked to agree a balanced budget that still looks to protect vital services that local people value.

He went on to add: “Our share of the council tax bill will cost a typical band D household just £3.75 a week, though most people in Swale will be paying less as most households are in the lower bands. I still think this represents real value given the range of services we provide, and maintains our position as one of the lowest council taxes in Kent.”

The final Council Tax Bill people will receive is made up of several charges from local services.

For 2023/24 the council tax bill for a typical band D property will include charges for:

  • Kent County Council: £1,534.23 (4.995% increase)
  • Kent Police & Crime Commissioner: £243.15 (6.57% increase)
  • Swale Borough Council: £194.94 (2.99% increase)
  • Kent & Medway Fire and Rescue Authority: £87.30 (6.01% increase)
  • Parish or town councils in areas where they exist.

The full budget report can be read on the agenda page for the full council meeting on Wednesday 22nd February.

Local Man Charged With Rural Thefts And Burglaries

Local Man Charged With Rural Thefts And Burglaries

A Sittingbourne man will appear before court following break-ins at more than 10 properties including a charity, in rural areas of the town and near Maidstone.

The alleged offences occurred between 30th September and 7th November 2021. Items stolen included power tools, bicycles, quad bikes, as well as valuable machinery including a John Deere lawnmower.

Oliver King, 36, of Glenbrook Grove, was arrested in a vehicle on the A2 after a short pursuit involving the police helicopter, on Monday 7th November 2022.

Following enquiries by the Maidstone Victim Based Crime Team, Mr King was charged with more than 20 offences including six counts of theft, four counts of criminal damage, and twelve counts of burglary.

He is bailed to appear before Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 14th March.


Convicted Sittingbourne Sex Offender Rejailed

Convicted Sittingbourne Sex Offender Rejailed

A convicted sex offender from Sittingbourne is starting a prison sentence after ignoring measures imposed by the courts to prevent him from reoffending.

Lewis Mortimer has been jailed for five years after he was found in possession of a haul of child abuse material, which even included a paedophile manual.

Mortimer, 42, of Shortlands Road, had a number of previous convictions for child sex offences and when he was arrested had been the subject of measures imposed by the court which restricted his access to the internet. These restrictions meant he also had to notify police of any internet enabled devices he possessed, such as phone and computers, as well as details including online usernames, bank cards and passport information. 

In December 2019, Kent Police learned that Mortimer had contacted a woman on the internet and claimed to be a photographer who worked with young children. A similar report was made to police a few months later, when after contacting another woman Mortimer sent images of children being abused.

On 1st April 2020, he was arrested at his home address. Searches led to the seizure of several devices, including a tablet concealed within a base of a divan bed. The devices were examined, and a phone was found to contain files containing indecent images, as well as pages from a so-called paedophile manual containing explicit details of how to groom and abuse victims. More than 23,000 images were also recovered from the tablet Mortimer had hidden inside the bed, many of which were in the most extreme category.

Mortimer appeared before Maidstone Crown Court, where he pleaded guilty to three counts of distributing indecent images, four counts of possessing indecent images and with possessing a paedophile manual. He also admitted ten counts of breaching notification requirements and seven further counts of breaching a sexual offence prevention order.

He was sentenced on Friday (10th February) to five years’ imprisonment, with an extended licence period of a further two years. He will remain on the sex offenders register for life.

DS Vicky Whitmill, of the Offender Management Unit, told SFM News: "Mortimer was subject to strict measures designed to reduce the risk of him reoffending. He has been unable to adhere to these restrictions and has demonstrated a clear determination to access illegal and harmful images, many of which include the horrific abuse of children. Make no mistake, the material Mortimer deliberately sought and downloaded will have resulted from real victims suffering appalling abuse. He has a significant offending history and appears to have no understanding of the gravity of his actions. People like him must face the consequences and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure they are brought before the courts."

New Milton Rec Trees Kicked Down By Vandals

New Milton Rec Trees Kicked Down By Vandals

250 new tree saplings, planted at Milton Recreational Ground last week, have been kicked, uprooted and damaged by vandals.

Swale Borough Council and Southern Housing held a tree-planting day last Monday (6th February) aimed "to increase tree cover for biodiversity and boost the health and wellbeing of families, dog-walkers and other park users".

Local Swale Borough Ward concillor, Cllr Steve Davey, said "the damage was noted over the weekend and will be repaired tomorrow".

A spokesman for Swale Borough Council told SFM News: “It’s massively upsetting and frustrating for all those involved in trying to improve the park, and the wider local environment, when people do something like this. We’ve spent time and money trying to create a space that will be a benefit for generations to come. It’s hard to conceive of the levels of selfishness and petty small-mindedness that those responsible have, but we won’t let their idiotic behaviour spoil the park for everyone else.”

A similar iniative is currently being run in Milton Creek Country Park, after a donation of saplings was made last week.

Duo Jailed Following Stable Burglary Spree

Duo Jailed Following Stable Burglary Spree

Members of an organised crime gang who burgled stables acrossthe county have been jailed.

Frank Matthews, Jimmy Price and Lewis Collins were arrested after they conspired to steal horse equipment valued at around £100,000 at up to eight separate properties between 3rd May and 17th May 2020.

The gang targeted stables and other rural premises during the hours of darkness in areas including Sittingbourne, Faversham, Paddock Wood, East Peckham, Mereworth, Blue Bell Hill, Kemsing and Maidstone. Forcing open doors and disabling alarms, the men stole equine equipment before making off in vehicles, sometimes across open fields

After a break-in at stables near Bearsted, Maidstone on Sunday 17th May 2020, investigators identified the suspects had been using a Vauxhall Zafira.

On the following day a patrol saw the vehicle in Cranbourne Avenue, Maidstone and indicated for the driver to stop. The driver, Matthews, did not stop and drove dangerously through residential areas until the vehicle came to a halt in Woolley Road due to a mechanical issue. Officers, who had been pursuing the vehicle, arrested Matthews and his two passengers, Price and Collins.

Following a complex investigation, detectives were able to prove all three had been responsible for several break-ins. Matthews, of Crispin Court, Coxheath admitted eight burglaries; Collins of Clare Place, Maidstone admitted six and Price of Well Street, Loose admitted involvement in seven. They were charged with conspiracy to burgle and Matthews was also charged with dangerous driving.

All pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court. On Friday (3rd February 2023), 27-year-old Matthews was jailed for two years and three months, 28-year-old Price was jailed for two years and four months and 25-year-old Collins received a sentence of one year and six months, suspended for two years.

Detective Constable Rob Fagg, of the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad, told SFM News: "These men targeted remote rural locations to steal a considerable amount of equine equipment from horse owners. The victims will have spent many years collecting expensive saddles, tack and in some cases specialist equipment, and the loss would have been hard to bear. The damage this gang caused at the break-ins would also have been expensive to repair and I have no doubt they did not spare a thought for the impact their crimes would have on the victims. A prison sentence for two members of this crime gang is entirely appropriate."


M&Co Sittingbourne Store Set To Close

M&Co Sittingbourne Store Set To Close

UK clothing retailer, M&Co, has announced that all of it's stores across the UK, including the branch here in Sittingbourne, are set to close in April.

In a Press Statement the company confirmed that "unfortunately, we haven't received the news we would have hoped for during our administration period. As we haven't received any funded, deliverable offers that would result in the transfer of the Company's stores or staff to a potential buyer, this means that all our stores will close".

The Renfrewshire-based Scottish company, which used to be known as Mackays Stores, was originally founded in 1834 and most recently sold clothing and homeware from 101/107 High Street, Sittingbourne.



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