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Medway's School Streets aren’t part of a globalist conspiracy
Plus Castle Concerts in trouble again, new ambulance data, and a frankly giant Zizzi comes to Medway
Editor’s note: It’s a big week for Medway news, including our look at Medway Council’s School Streets proposals and the conspiracy theories that have followed. We’ve also got news on the Castle Concerts, details of the frankly giant Zizzi that is opening in Chatham, and more.
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No, School Streets aren’t part of a new world order globalist conspiracy
Medway Council announced that they were proceeding with a consultation on School Streets this week. The schemes involve limiting access to streets around school entrances during the morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up times.
The government have awarded Medway Council nearly £500,000 to spend on a series of schemes, designed to reduce congestion and danger around schools and encourage healthier ways of getting to school.
The consultation will centre on 14 schools around Medway and runs until the end of June. The proposals are fairly straightforward. You can’t enter a School Street in a vehicle between 8am and 9am and then between 3pm and 4pm. If you are a resident, you can still have a permit to do so, as can emergency services, businesses in the zone, carers, and blue badge holders.
The scheme would be monitored by fixed cameras on the street, that will issue fines to those breaking the rules. Given the state of so many roads around schools during the morning and afternoon, it seems like a solid proactive step in improving congestion and safety in our communities.
The concept of School Streets isn’t unique to Medway, though they would be the first ones in our area. There are hundreds of School Streets across the country, and while the majority are in large urban centres, they exist in places like Margate and Tunbridge Wells too. There is little evidence to suggest that they cause problems in their communities, but they do appear to make things safer for children and parents accessing schools.
Medway’s proposals seem to be similar to other places, though there are some communications problems that need to be resolved. All of the consultation documents indicate that staff members of the school cannot enter the street either, while Cllr Tris Osborne, Medway’s new Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, said that they could. Residents in other parts of Medway have received notifications of schemes that aren’t currently being consulted on, some of which seem to feature layouts that haven’t been seriously thought through.
Being 2023, even the most innocuous of schemes gets accused of being more sinister than it is, and comments on the story about the scheme on KentOnline started referencing shadowy globalist schemes, London’s ULEZ scheme, and ‘woke’ 15-minute cities. None of these are relevant here, but do indicate just how radicalised certain parts of the internet can now be on any issue.
The conspiracy theories around 15-minute cities are some of the strangest in what is a competitive field. The concept is fairly simple: Have good facilities within a 15-minute walk of where you live, and you won’t have to drive as much. 15-minute cities are broadly a return to how things used to be in the past, where your local shops, schools, healthcare facilities, parks and the such were all within close proximity to your house. According to the conspiracy theorists though, the plan is to keep everyone trapped in 'open-air prisons’ by banning them from going outside of their neighbourhood. Which is a leap, but worryingly, people actually believe it.
These conspiracies have been latched onto by far-right activists, who are providing a direct throughline from the anti-vaccine arguments through the pandemic, believing that basic public health measures are somehow an infringement on their liberty. Sadly, this isn’t going away. Earlier this year, 2,000 protestors descended on Oxford in response to their 15-minute city proposals.
It’s been inevitable that this kind of conspiratorial nonsense would reach Medway at some point, and it appears that the time is finally upon us. Political reality means these initial schemes will likely go ahead, but somehow School Streets, of all things, run the risk of being one of the first controversial issues of the new Labour administration.
We’re less than a month away from Rochester’s Castle Concerts, and once again, it appears that ticket sales aren’t going well. After we exclusively revealed last year that crowd numbers were being bulked up by giving away large numbers of free and discounted tickets, promoters AGMP appear to be doing the same thing again this year.
Even as tickets continue to be sold on their Castle Concerts website for £50-£55, tickets are being given away for just the price of the booking fee to those on the mailing lists of seat filler websites. Subscribers to the ShowFilmFirst website were offered tickets to the Soft Cell, Fat Freddy’s Drop, and Sugababes concerts for £6.50 per ticket this week.
Since their release earlier in the week, tickets for Soft Cell seem to be gone, but the nearly 90% reduction in the ticket price is still available for Fat Freddy’s Drop and Sugababes. Which is great news for fans of one of Britain’s finest pop bands.
Like last year, this kind of thing isn’t entirely uncommon. Plenty of events do this to boost attendance figures at an underperforming event, as it’s better to at least get people in to buy food and drink than not at all. But it is unfortunate that the largest music event in Medway’s calendar can’t seem to find a sustainable way of doing things.
Still, we’ll see you in the mosh pit for Sugababes.
Ambulance response times are holding steady
South East Coast Ambulance answered 84,555 calls in May. The average time for a call to be answered was 1 second. 10% of callers waited longer than 87 seconds for an answer.
Ambulance response times are broadly in line with last month, with Category 1-3 calls all seeing an improvement in performance, while still not meeting the target times. There has been a marked decline in Category 4 response times, but even these are still meeting the target on average.
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: Hospitalisation data is not currently being published for no clear reason.
Deaths: No new deaths were recorded this week, keeping Medway at 1,035 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 53% of those eligible for a spring booster have now received one.
Zizzi is coming to town
Shout out to Future Chatham for wading through Medway’s planning applications and spotting that Italian restaurant chain Zizzi is on its way to Chatham Dockside.
It’s been a strange few years for the retail and leisure complex, which has seen the Dockside Outlet Centre doing surprisingly well during an economic downturn, diversifying to welcome new types of business to keep the site relevant. Outside though, the wider leisure complex has struggled, first with the closure of Dickensworld, and several of the surrounding restaurants. Nearby Pier 5 also has several empty units.
Zizzi intends to take on two units at Dockside, moving into what was the Villagio restaurant, as well as The Real China next door. Both units have been empty for more than two years, and it gives Zizzi a very large space to operate from.
In a period of downsizing for this sort of mid-sized chain restaurant, it’s notable that Zizzi is bucking this trend and have recently opened new outlets in places like Newbury, Chester, and Belfast, with Chatham set to join them. It’s a daunting task for the company given the size of the venue, and the fact that the similar Villagio failed on the same site only two years ago.
The move follows a series of new eateries at the Dockside site, with Costa, KFC, and Kaspa’s all opening in the past year. Zizzi will see the food and drink provision of the main building operating a full capacity, which can only be a positive sign for the area.
🚷 The M2 motorway bridge will be closed to pedestrians for six months. This will allow work to raise the height of the barriers to be raised. You have until 19 June to take in one of the unexpectedly best views in Medway.
🚉 Chatham Railway Station is undergoing a refurbishment. The work to spruce up the station follows the recent installation of lifts to access the platforms for the first time.
⚽ New Gillingham FC owner Brad Galinson expects promotion next year. Given the League 2 club flirted with relegation this year, that will be no small turnaround. The team has also announced Bauvill as their main sponsor for the next two years.
🌡️ The first heat warning of the year is in place this weekend. With temperatures possibly hitting 30 degrees, the UK Health Security Agency has issued the warning for the days between now and Monday.
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This week, we published an interview with poet Barry Fentiman-Hall, who is currently running the new Medway River Lit festival. We also published the first exclusive column from new Medway Council Leader Cllr Vince Maple, who set out his priorities for the early days of his administration. Finally, we looked at the state of Medway’s housing market, which seems to be getting more and more broken by the year.
In the coming week, we have an insightful interview with new Conservative Leader of the Opposition at Medway Council Cllr Adrian Gulvin, our monthly planning report, and more.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: even in jest by cheerbleederz, Heavenly vs Satan by Heavenly, Rockin’ the Suburbs by Ben Folds, Kiss Yr Frenemies by illuminati hotties, and Talon of the Hawk by The Front Bottoms.