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Hunt for arsonist after Maidstone town centre fires

An arsonist is believed to be responsible for a series of fires in a town centre including at a book shop. Firefighters were first called to reports that five cars had been set alight in two streets in Maidstone, Kent, at 1.16am today.

Then at 2.11am, fire crews were scrambled to The Works bookstore in Week Street, where a blaze had spread to three adjoining shops.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Police inquiries into the incidents, which are being treated as suspicious, are ongoing."

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said crews wearing breathing apparatus searched the shop and police evacuated neighbouring properties.

He said: "Firefighters have made good progress in tackling this very large fire which has affected four shops in Week Street, Maidstone.

"Fifteen crews were at the scene at the height of the fire, but by 6am this was reduced to six. They have been using breathing apparatus, 10 main jets and two aerial appliances.

"There are no casualties reported. Properties in the area have been evacuated and Maidstone High Street and Week Street are currently closed."


Crews tackle major fire in Maidstone

Crews tackling a fire in Week Street in Maidstone Credit: SECAmb HART

More than fifty firefighters have been at a fire on Maidstone High Street.

It broke out at a bookshop on Week Street early this morning. Buildings were evacuated and surrounding roads closed. The number of crew has now been scaled back - but some could remain for the next few days.

Crews tackling a fire in Week Street in Maidstone Credit: SECAmb HART

Drivers warned of delays following fires

Motorists are being advised of significant disruption around Maidstone town centre this morning following a number of fires.

Kent Police was called at 1.16am to reports that five cars had been set alight in the Buckland Road and Somerfield Road area of the town.

Then at 2.11am it was reported that The Works bookstore in Week Street, Maidstone, was on fire and that it had spread to adjoining properties.

Firefighters from Kent Fire and Rescue Service are currently at the scene of the Week Street fire.

Police enquiries into the incidents, which are being treated as suspicious, are on-going.

Inquiry begins into plans to build homes on ancient woodland

Campaigners turned out in force today for the start of test-case planning inquiry into controversial plans to build five hundred homes close to woodland that is centuries old.

They say development of the site off Hermitage Lane at Allington in Maidstone would destroy ancient woodland known as Bluebell Wood.

But developers say it does not qualify as 'ancient' woodland and the plans should go ahead.

The outcome could affect the future of dozens of other woodland sites. John Ryall reports.


Civic pride and patriotism in Kent's county town

Troops from 36 Engineer Regiment have been marching through Maidstone exercising their Freedom of the Borough. Some of the soldiers have recently come back from Nepal. And as Andrea Thomas reports many of the troops still have one eye on the relief efforts in the country. She spoke to Lt Col Richard Walker, the Commanding Officer of the regiment and Mayor of Maidstone, Daniel Moriarty.

  1. Tom Savvides

Protests over planned warehouses in fields

Protesters have been demonstrating against plans to build a large warehouse complex in the Kent countryside. A public inquiry started today into the Waterside Park scheme close to junction 8 of the M20 near Maidstone. Tom Savvides talks to locals, Richard Knox-Johnston from the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council.

Burglar jailed for stealing veteran's war medals

Kieran Vanner has been sentenced to 17 months in prison Credit: Kent Police

A burglar has been jailed for 17 months after stealing war medals belonging to the family of a late Second World War veteran.

Kieran Vanner, 20, of Palmerston Road, Chatham, took the military decorations during a raid of a house in Penenden Heath, Maidstone, on Monday 26 January this year.

He also stole a large quantity of jewellery as well as a laptop computer, a portable media player, bank cards and numerous other possessions worth a total of about £9,000.

Vanner was arrested several days later when some of the items taken in the burglary were found in a bag dumped in an alleyway near his home address. He was charged following the results of a forensic examination.

"Burglary is a terrible crime that leaves a long-lasting impact on victims, but Vanner spared no thought for those whose home he ransacked for his own personal benefit. Fortunately the war medals and other possessions he stole were returned to their rightful owners, and I hope the sentencing imposed on Vanner is of some additional comfort to them."

– Investigating officer Detective Constable Raj Dusanjh

Questions still remain over river death

A coroner has said she cannot be certain the death of a man, whose body was found in the River Medway, was an accident. Patrick Lamb's disappearance in December sparked a nationwide search to find him. His body was pulled from the water one month later.

Pat Lamb Credit: Kent Police

The cause of death is 'immersion' meaning he could have drowned or suffered a cardiac arrest due to shock brought on by entering cold water. Alcohol was cited as a contributing factor.

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