Local News

2021 Civic Service Of Remembrance Details Released

2021 Civic Service Of Remembrance Details Released

Whilst we still navigate our way through the pandemic, Swale Borough Council will this year deliver a scaled back Civic Service of Remembrance at the Sittingbourne War Memorial on Sunday 14th November.

Individuals and organisations wishing to attend the service are asked to arrive by 10.45am and gather in the vicinity of the War Memorial and in Central Avenue car park, which will be closed all morning for the service.

Alternative parking, which will be free in all Council car parks on Remembrance Sunday, is available nearby in Albany Road, Swallows Leisure Centre and other town centre car parks.

The Mayor of Swale Cllr Paul Stephen will be supported by Reverend David Ridley, Team Vicar for St Michaels Church Sittingbourne and Reader Mrs Pat Tatchell, Benefice of Tunstall and Bredgar together with the Salvation Army (Sittingbourne Corp).

Service and community organisations are asked to minimise the number of representatives attending to manage the risks arising from the pandemic.

There will be an opportunity for all to lay wreaths and personal tributes at the end of the formal service but there will be no parade.

A road closure will be in place on Central Avenue from the police station down to the High Street from 9:00am onwards, to prepare for the service, and it will re-open at 12:00 noon, once the service has ended.


Council Welcomes Wheelabrator Expansion Decision

Council Welcomes Wheelabrator Expansion Decision

The High Court has rejected an appeal by Wheelabrator to overturn a decision by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to refuse permission for its new Kemsley North energy from waste (EfW) plant here in Sittingbourne.

Welcoming the decision, Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for the climate and ecological emergency at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “Whilst incinerating waste with energy recovery forms an important part of the waste strategy, we must recognise that it low in the hierarchy. It is much better to produce less waste in the first place and recycle more of the waste that does arise. In Swale we are working to divert more food waste from the general waste bins. Collected separately, food waste goes to an anaerobic digester which feeds methane into the national gas grid and produces a fuel conditioner used in local agriculture.”

The Court ruled (on Friday 8th October) that the extra capacity of the proposed plant is not required under Kent County Council’s revised Minerals and Waste Local Plan and could have provided a disincentive to recycle more waste.

Wheelabrator, which has been acquired by First Sentier Investors and rebranded ‘enfinium’ — was granted permission to increase the capacity of its Kemsley K3 plant to process an additional 107,000 tonnes of waste per year, giving a maximum capacity of 657,000 tonnes.


Bricks Thrown At Motorists From Motorway Bridge

Bricks Thrown At Motorists From Motorway Bridge

Increased local patrols are taking place after bricks are reported to have been thrown at motorists from bridges.

Last Sunday (3rd October), at around 5.40pm, officers received three reports of vehicles travelling on the M2, below the Sawpit Road bridge (pictured), having their windscreens and windows damaged. On this occasion, witnesses have not reported seeing anyone on the bridge.

At around 4.41pm on Wednesday (6th October), two further reports were received and on this occasion witnesses said that they had seen a man throwing bricks from Ruins Barn Road, Sittingbourne, into the path of lorries. One lorry driver’s window was smashed.

Kent Police told SFM News: "Enquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing and anyone with information, or dash cam footage that captures the offending, is asked to contact Kent Police". 

Chief Inspector Joel Mitchell, Kent Police’s District Commander for Swale, told SFM News: "These reports are really concerning, and this type of behaviour is very reckless and has the potential to cause fatalities.  Not only can those responsible cause serious injuries to innocent people but they also risk obtaining a potential prison sentence. Anyone with information about the incidents can call Kent Police on 01795 419119 quoting reference 46/197053/21."

You can also call the independent charity Crimestoppers free and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete an online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org

Councillors Approve Change In Governance

Councillors Approve Change In Governance

At last night’s (Wednesday 6th October) Council meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to change the way Swale Borough Council makes decisions by moving to a committee system.

Councillors have agreed that the council’s current leader-and-cabinet led structure, where most decisions are taken by fewer people, will be replaced with a committee system, which will come into effect at the annual council meeting in May 2022.

The new system will mean decisions are made by politically balanced committees representing all councillors.

Cllr Roger Truelove, Leader of the Council, told SFM News: “This will be more democratic. It ensures that when people go to vote they will know that their elected members will no longer be excluded from major policy decisions. Swale is a diverse borough with diverse politics and the cabinet system does inevitably exclude both communities and members. Cabinets belong at Westminster but are not appropriate to local councils, with more intimate contacts with different communities. This will not prevent the Coalition delivering on its agenda. We will have a majority on the committees. But going forward, beyond the elections of 2023 the committee system will lead to a more consensual approach to local politics, which in my long experience, is what most local voters want.”

Cllr Mike Baldock, Deputy Leader with responsibility for constitutional change, told SFM News: "This is a huge decision for the us to have taken, and I am delighted we have taken the whole council with us on this journey. Good politics is about listening and working together to support our residents and our communities. The committee system will help ensure everyone's voice is heard better."

Cllr Alan Horton, Leader of the Opposition, told SFM News: “The Conservatives have worked constructively with the Coalition to bring about this important change as it gives all Councillors an opportunity to speak for their communities and be involved in decision making. This is a fundamental change in how ward councillors are able to represent their residents​ and how the council makes decisions. We believe it is important that all voices are heard and we are looking forward to being able to better serve our residents from May next year.”

For more information about the change in governance and what it will mean for Swale Borough Council please click here.

Major Power Cut Affecting Kemsley And Bobbing

Major Power Cut Affecting Kemsley And Bobbing

Thousands of residents are currently without power in the Kemsley and Bobbing areas.

UK Power Networks have told SFM News: "Several thousand customers are impacted by a power cut in the Sittingbourne area at 6.42pm. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience the power cut has caused. An underground electricity cable faulted on our high voltage network, causing an area wide power cut."

Stay tuned to 106.9 SFM for the latest.


Power was fully restored by 7:30pm.

New Draft Planning Enforcement Strategy Agreed

New Draft Planning Enforcement Strategy Agreed

Councillors have approved a new draft planning enforcement strategy and service charter outlining how breaches of planning permission are handled.

Swale Borough Council sought approval of the new draft strategy and charter at last month’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday 22nd September. The strategy sets out how the council protects the borough’s built and natural environment from unauthorised developments. It includes identifying priority issues for the service and explains what action can be taken.

The charter explains how the planning enforcement process works, to help people and partners like parish councils understand how investigations are carried out.

Cllr Mike Baldock, cabinet member for planning at the council, told SFM News: “We’ve been working on an improved enforcement strategy and service charter since the beginning of the year, and following a successful, eight-week consultation earlier this summer, cabinet has approved our plans. It’s important that we protect the borough against unauthorised developments now and into the future. The strategy will help us do this, as well as provide a more transparent planning service for residents and give a clearer picture of what the planning process entails".

He went on to add: “It will also provide a more consistent and effective communication between us and local parish and town councils. We made a commitment to renew local democracy and make the council fit for the future in our corporate plan, and the updated strategy and charter are just one of the ways we’re sticking to our priorities".

The full report can be found here.

Rugby Club Raises Funds For A Community Defibrillator

Rugby Club Raises Funds For A Community Defibrillator

Photo: James Hobson (left) and Phil Whymark, SRUFC Club President

The collapse of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen during the Euro 2020 football match against Finland bought home to everyone that no matter how fit we are, illness can strike at any time.

The above events focussed Sittingbourne Rugby Club to consider the purchase of a defibrillator to try to safeguard the wellbeing of their playing members and, given their desire to engage with the local community, that of members of the public.

A team of cyclists from the club, led by James Hobson, undertook a fundraising cycle ride on Sunday 4th July with the proceeds being split between the Wooden Spoon rugby charity and the remainder towards the defibrillator.

They then applied for the Community Grants from Swale Borough Council members and received positive responses and funding from local councillors Mike Whiting (Teynham and Lynsted), Tony Winckless (Milton Regis), James Hunt (The Meads), Ken Rowles (Roman) and Derek Carnell (Kemsley).

The club also received a generous donation from Rotary Club Of Sittingbourne Invicta.

The defibrillator is now placed on an external wall at the Gore Court clubhouse and is registered with the local ambulance service and can be accessed by a code (which is obtained by ringing the telephone number on the unit).

Fire Crews Remain At Major Eurolink Blaze

Fire Crews Remain At Major Eurolink Blaze

Three fire engines remain at the scene of a large fire at a recycling plant on West Lane on The Eurolink Industrial Estate.

Crews are damping down any remaining hot spots while maintaining a watching brief.

No casualties have been reported and the cause is not yet known.

People who live or work in the Kemsley and Iwade areas are still advised to keep their windows and doors closed as a precaution, due to smoke coming from the fire, which involved a large amount of household waste and recycling materials.

The Kent Fire and Rescue Service were called to reports of a fire at the commercial premises just after 7:00pm last night (Saturday 25th September). At it's height eleven fire engines, a height vehicle and a bulk water carrier were sent to the scene. 

Stay tuned to 106.9 SFM for the latest information.

Drunk Van Driver Jailed After Schoolgirl Killed

Drunk Van Driver Jailed After Schoolgirl Killed

A drunk van driver, who ploughed into a car and killed a schoolgirl in Bobbing, has been jailed for seven years.

Benjamin Henley was more than two and a half times over the drink drive limit when he collided with a black Audi which had broken down on a slip road on the A249 on Wednesday 24th October 2018.

Henley, 45, of Illustrious Close, Chatham, failed to spot the Audi before he collided with it at around 11.50pm.

Georgia Mann, who was 15 and from Sittingbourne, was taken to a London hospital where she died on the morning of Friday 26 October.

A woman in her 20s also sustained serious injuries and a man in his 20s was taken to hospital with chest injuries. Both have since recovered.

Henley was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday (20th September) to seven years in jail after admitting causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He was also disqualified from driving for nine and a half years and will have to take an extended retest. 

Georgia was inside the stranded vehicle after the car had run out of petrol. The driver had left her along with another person, inside the vehicle while he walked to get petrol, before Henley collided with the car.

The driver of the Audi was charged with causing death by careless driving but was previously acquitted following a trial.

Investigating officer Darren Chapman of Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit told SFM News: "This sentencing has come nearly three years after the collision, and I want to commend the bravery and stoicism that Georgia’s family have displayed throughout court proceedings. This was an awful incident in which a young girl lost her life and while no sentence will bring Georgia back, I hope the outcome provides some closure."

Kickstart Scheme Welcomes Over 30 Local Businesses

Kickstart Scheme Welcomes Over 30 Local Businesses

Local MP Gordon Henderson, in partnership with Sittingbourne and Sheerness JobCentres, welcomed over 30 local businesses on Friday (17th September) morning to their Kickstart Scheme Seminar, where they were encouraged to offer 6-month work placements to young people on Universal Credit.

The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme was set up by the Government in November and has created 331 placements, for claimants aged between 16 - 24 years old, in Sittingbourne and Sheppey so far. This has been achieved with the help of the 101 local employers who are already taking part. Those employers received £1,500 of grant funding per placement to help with setup and training costs, with the Government fully funding the pay and National Insurance for 25 hours work a week and, where necessary, offering transport-to-work assistance for the young people taking part.

Mr Henderson told SFM News: "The Kickstart Scheme is a brilliant Government initiative, which has benefits for both the employer and the young person taking part, because it funds placements in local businesses that provide work experience. In order for local youngsters to realise their potential and fill the many jobs that are being created locally, it’s important they gain experience and confidence in a workplace. That’s what the Kickstart Scheme helps them achieve and I hope many more local employers will take part in Kickstart and help give those young people a positive start to their working life.’

Liz Elsden, Partnership Manager for the Sittingbourne and Sheerness Jobcentres, told SFM News: "It was great to see so many local employers attend this event to find out more about the Kickstart Scheme and how they can support young people in the community get that first step on the employment ladder. Young people in Swale need the support of local employers to help build their confidence and skills by offering them a placement under the Government’s fully funded Kickstart Scheme.’

For more information about the Kickstart Scheme, please visit: https://kickstart.campaign.gov.uk/.


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