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Could Kent be the next fracking battle ground?

An energy company's plans to drill for gas at four sites in Kent risks the contamination of drinking water supplies to thousands of homes.

That's the claim, tonight, from residents, farmers - and scientists - campaigning to kill off proposals for exploratory drilling at a former quarry at Tilmanstone... a farm in Guston... and woodland at Sheperdswell. A licence has already been granted for drilling on land at Woodnesborough.

Exploratory drilling at Balcombe in Sussex - again for gas - was abandoned after months of mass protest. There had been fears that any exploration would lead to the controversial method of fracking.

Andrea Thomas reports. She spoke to retired university lecturer Geoff Mead, Graham Warren from the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Rosemary Rechter from East Kent Against Fracking and Andrew Wiseman, an environmental lawyer.

Hospital transport delays caused by 'teething difficulties'

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has issued a statement concerning problems with patient transport services in the county.

Traditionally, patient transport services in Kent & Medway have been provided by a number of different organisations. In order to provide an equitable, high quality and consistent patient transport service across the NHS in Kent, the commissioning body tendered for a Kent-wide service in 2012. As a result, patient transport services for Kent moved to a new provider, NSL, on 1 July 2013.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, along with the other NHS organisations in Kent, is currently experiencing significant teething difficulties with the change in the provision.

East Kent Hospitals is extremely concerned that many patients are waiting too long for transport for treatment and for their return home and, along with the other NHS Trusts in Kent & Medway, the Clinical Commissioning Groups and NSL, is working to find a long-term, sustainable solution.

We have been assured that more staff are being brought in and that the call burden is now being split between two of NSL’s contact centres. The situation has improved considerably over the last few days.

– East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

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Hospital managers apologise for transport problems

Hospital managers have apologised for delays in getting patients to and from routine appointments in Kent. A new contractor has taken over their transport system and 'teething problems' are being blamed on a failure to keep up with demand.

East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust says it's also experiencing issues with a new computer system which has been causing problems for non-urgent scans and x-rays.

East Kent bid 'disappointment'

We are all hugely disappointed not to be progressing to the next stage of the competition. We have always believed that East Kent has a powerful case to be crowned UK City of Culture, one that challenges conventions and encourages people to think again about an area they thought they knew.

Nonetheless the very process of bidding has been a victory in itself –helping us to realise the power of culture to inspire, to excite and to bind the people of East Kent..."

– Chris Hespe, KCC’s Head of Culture and Sport

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Criminal network jailed for total of 16 years

A major Kent Police operation ended today, with members of an East Kent criminal network being jailed for a total of 16 years. Marcus Vella (below), aged 39, was appearing at Canterbury Crown Court to be sentenced for his role in a setting up a cannabis factory and for handling stolen metal.

Vella, also known as Marcus Davies, from Burlington Drive, Herne Bay, had admitted, at an earlier hearing, a cannabis production conspiracy charge and was sentenced to six years and three months in prison and is to serve a further year for the stolen metal offences.

Marcus Vella Credit: Kent Police

Also admitting the conspiracy charge was Margate builder Barry Smith (below), aged 49, of King Street, who was sentenced to four years in prison, and Curtis Woolley, aged 36 of Cheney Road, Minster, who had admitted a cannabis production charge and was jailed for 32 months.

Barry Smith Credit: Kent Police

The sentencing brings to a close a lengthy police investigation and three court processes that have resulted in seven members of a criminal network facing a total of 16 years behind bars.

Curtis Woolley Credit: Kent Police

DCI Fotheringham said: 'We welcome the sentences which bring to an end this investigation. It is by no means the end for Marcus Vella. He faces a lengthy prison sentence and Kent Police will pursue the seizure of his assets to ensure that he does not profit from the crime."

Help for dementia patients to stay home

The NHS in East Kent has launched a consultation to improve care for older people with dementia and other mental health problems. The aim is to support more people with dementia to live well in their homes for longer.

There are plans to invest £600,000 in improving home treatment services and provide a round the clock dementia crisis service. It's hoped that hospital wards in Canterbury, Ashford and Margate will be remodelled too.

Roadshows are to take place at the following venues where you can find out more:

  • 17 April: St Mary Bredin Church, Nunnery Fields, Canterbury. 10am - 12:30pm
  • 17 May: The Landmark Centre, 129 High Street, Deal. 10:30am - 12:30pm
  • 14 June: Norman House Event Centre, Beaver Industrial Estate, Beaver Road, Ashford. 2:30pm - 4:30pm
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