Parish Chairman’s Update … February 2020

Cllr Bernard Cresswell

Not the best start to 2020, as we mourn the loss of two significant individuals over the Christmas period: David Sawyer, and Cllr Ian Firmin. Both have done a great deal for Linton over many years and they will be missed. Our thoughts are with their families at this difficult time.

The headline topics are: the Call for Sites, Vicarage Field, Berry Gardens, Parish Council elections, Parish Annual meeting and free trees!

Call for Sites: By the time you read this, we will have submitted our formal response on your behalf to the effect that we don’t believe there’s any justification for further development.

Vicarage Field: Most of you will have noticed the Fernham Homes signage has gone up in Vicarage Field, which will be the official address for the new homes, so there will be some spasmodic disruption to traffic as building gets under way. The development is in a sensitive area so we have set up a monitoring committee with the developer to help to ensure a smooth transition. The surface water pipe is now being laid under the allotment path that will take away any excess surface water from the new development.

Berry Gardens (it is still a cooperative!): The junction of Redwall Lane with Linton Hill is now subject to disruption as road works commence, expect delays. The new packhouse – well there’s quite a lot to report on this following my invite to meet Duncan Mills (Director of Operations) and Paul Firmin and I was pleasantly surprised with what I learned. The meeting was arranged so that I could reveal my findings in this newsletter; the site is now operational.

Whatever you may think of the new Packhouse, it is now part of Linton so we have to move on and with this in mind I accepted the invite to Berry Gardens and asked straight off, what are you doing to make it disappear? Actually, they are straight talking people so it was not such a harsh introduction after all.

Trees are a significant part of the project and thousands have been planted, many of which have been repositioned in response to those affected by the visual impact of the building. The next lot of trees to be planted will be next winter (tree planting season) with many along the front of the building where the ground has been prepared. Maidstone Borough Council will meet them in February for rewilding the surrounding area too.

Other things I noticed are the sonic reducing fencing around such things as external generators, which came about in response to complaints. It’s worth adding here that they are keen to have issues reported to them, rather than have them fester.

Light pollution, they are aware of this and discovered the main lights on the building need to be addressed along with the light being emitted from the first floor windows. It may be blinds are needed but there’s a quicker solution with having the lights turned off when the shift finishes. However with such a huge area to be cleaned they’ve got to work out how the cleaners fit in with this solution.

There’s unexpected good news in having the new packhouse … not something you’d expect to read but Berry Gardens are keen to take advantage of and have advertised! Larger premises meant a more efficient layout of fruit punnet conveyors; therefore they’ve reduced the number of shifts from two to one; goods in during the morning, and goods out in the evening: meaning fewer night time lorry movements. This is not likely to change either, as more space means any future growth is catered for within the existing floor space.

On the topic of lorry movements, it seems that with the closure of the Amsbury packhouse in Hunton (unrelated to Berry Gardens) the lorry problems on the western end of Redwall Lane have ceased.

The big aims of Berry Gardens, which the Firmins are facilitating, are to reduce food miles and plastic reduction. Other objectives are to have nothing sent to landfill. And the staff play their part in our programme of Grand Linton Litterpicks. They’re even pushing their customers to have the pallets packed more efficiently, so as to reduce food miles (lorry movements).

Some other things I noticed too on the employment front, one that struck me as is I saw a wheelchair bound individual. I asked about them and found out that no one would give them work so a role was created placing the small bubble wrap pads into each punnet, clearly something that could have been automated but wasn’t. That person, along with others, turn up at the doors asking for work and after short monthly contracts, are taken on permanently… no zero contract hours, and this gives employees the ability to establish homes for themselves.

So what of the future Berry Gardens? It is to pursue ISO 14001 (sounds heavy but isn’t) which defines the criteria for an Environmental Management System (EMS). It can be used by any organisation that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and reduce costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurances to company management and employees, as well as to external stakeholders, that environmental impacts are being measured and improved.

So what of the existing vacant Wares Farm Packhouse? Well, it’s seeking to have another fruit company move in and with it the Firmins are keen to have any new tenant take on all the new good practices that have been acquired.

Linton Parish Council 2020 elections: Keep an eye on the website for timetable and details but it’ll be March when you need to register with Maidstone Borough Council. Linton needs councillors so why not attend the next meeting 10th February and see what goes on and what it involves? Or get in touch with any existing councillor and arrange to have a chat.

Parish Annual Meeting: Will be held Monday 27th April 7.30pm in the Village Hall where a summary of the events of the last year will be given and anything on the horizon plus surprises!

Free Trees… The Parish Council has been given access to free trees, so whether you’re a resident or a business then please have some. Cllrs Jerry Whitmarsh and James Smith of Loddington Farm have details.

Bit of a lengthy piece but hope it was worthwhile, so as we start the New Year and a new decade I wish you well in all your endeavours.

Cllr Bernard Cresswell