Sub-Section 3: Environmental Issues For The Town Edit
Q13 The town’s environment: What are the environmental issues facing the town?
The biggest environmental issue is that of traffic, particularly through traffic, and the problems of noise, air and dust pollution, and speed associated with it.
Many residential properties in the town centre are very close to the road, so that problems of noise, vibration and pollution are acute. They have been particularly bad in recent months during the dualling of the West Malling/Leybourne by pass which opened in October. We expect through traffic to diminish, but there are concerns that the speed limits, length and traffic lights on the by pass may mean there is a need to discourage rat running. This is an issue which affects all of the surrounding parishes also.
A few years ago a 20mph zone was agreed which covers the majority of the town. Measurements have shown that this has been partially successful but problems remain particularly in St Leonards Street, Town Hill and Swan Street. There is also felt to be a need to extend the zone particularly in Swan Street to include Thomas More School.
What plans are there to deal with them?
The County Council has agree to take traffic counts in local roads a few months after the by-pass opens in its dualled form, and address issues of rat running which this may highlight. The by pass is to be connected directly to the railway station during 2007 and this will relieve West Malling of some of the through traffic.
The County and Borough Councils are due to jointly review the 20mph scheme during 2006, and address any remaining problems.
The Parish Council has jointly with East Malling and Larkfield Parish purchased a mobile Speed Indicator Device which will be used to identify speeding problems in local roads. This equipment is to be made available to our neighbouring parishes for a small fee. The training in the use of the equipment must be provided by the Police and this is expected to be made available soon.
Q14 Brown field land:
What brown field land is available for building?
At present there is no significant Brownfield land. A small plot of land to the rear of Swan Mill which was previously a glasshouse and nursery garden is available.
Is this available land being considered in planning decisions?
Planning applications for development have been refused as over intensive and damaging to the conservation area setting.
Q15 What townscape or heritage initiatives are there?
The Malling Society and the Parish Council has a joint initiative to create a Heritage Centre in the basement of Douces Manor, St Leonard's Street. The Manor is in the course of redevelopment for residential properties. The Heritage Centre was proposed as a way of protecting and making available to the public the historic Twitch Inn which lies in the basement. This was a small bar and dance floor used by pilots billeted at the Manor and based at West Malling Aerodrome during World War Two. The ceiling bears pilots signatures written in candle flares and a number of contemporary cartoons depicting the 'twitchy' existence of the pilots. The Parish Council is to agree a lease with the owners of the Manor and the Malling Society will then display artefacts in their ownership and make them available for public viewing. The management of the basement in this way is a condition of the planning consent for the Manor.
A review of the 20mph and parking regimes to be undertaken during 2006 by KCC and TMBC may result in some small townscape alterations.
The Malling Society is preparing a Town Walk leaflet which will guide visitors round the most important features of the town. Final details are awaiting the agreement of the lease on the Twitch Inn. The leaflet is being financed jointly by the Malling Society and the County Councillor.
Other Heritage initiatives which remain as yet unfulfilled are the provision of a permanent Tourist Information Bureau, and the making available of the Priests House to public viewing
In the existing Conservation Areas there is a steady stream of planning applications for change to both residential and commercial premises, reflecting the vitality of the community. Planning Law dictates that any development in these areas must not detract from the townscape, and should at best enhance it, so that all applications should be considered in this light.
Q16 What land and buildings that could help the town’s initiatives are available for purchase (and are they at affordable prices?
If finance were available, a leasehold arrangement would be possible for the Tourist Information Bureau. Rents and land prices are however expensive in West Malling e.g. a small shop premises in West Street is currently available for rent at £8,000 per year.