Lower Thames Crossing - 23-09-16 

Constituency work, by its very nature, is territorial but there are several challenges that MPs handle regionally; border control, counter-terrorism, public transport to name but three. To that end I meet with my Kent colleagues regularly to address common issues and together we act for the wider good of the people of this great County.

One longstanding campaign constantly in the news is Operation Stack, which was first implemented way back in 1988. Almost three decades later a lorry park has been agreed as part of an alternative solution to 'stack', a measure Kent colleagues have campaigned for successfully.

But we also believe a wider, more strategic approach, is needed to tackle congestion relating to the Channel ports that sometimes backs-up for miles along the M20, causing misery for Maidstone and our neighbours.

Enter the Lower Thames Crossing; another old chestnut first mooted in 1989, with a decision to build expected later this year. Colleagues support the proposed crossing but unless the traffic can be effectively delivered to and from that point, our County will be scarcely better off.

That is why Kent MPs have this week written to the Chancellor and the Transport Secretary to raise two issues; Dualling the A2 continuously between Dover and the M2 (to remove bottlenecks and dissuade drivers from using the M20 unnecessarily); and secondly, taking the route North of the Thames all the way to the M11 instead of connecting into the vastly overcrowded M25. This creates a clear corridor all the way between the Channel and the Midlands – a scheme I understand was first suggested in 2010 by consultants advising Kent County Council.

With a new lorry park and a free flow of traffic independent of the M20 / M25 to and from Kent, Operation Stack could become a thing of the past and Maidstone will become all the better a place to live and work. Here's to progress - whatever the pace!


Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger.  The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.

MP Visits Newly Refurbished Maidstone Pub

Community pub The Stag in Maidstone has reopened following a joint investment of £70,000 by multi-operator Chris Dyer and the UK's leading pub company, Enterprise Inns, attracting a visit from the local MP Helen Grant. The venue, located just off the town's busy high street, has been closed since February 2016 while a full refurbishment took place to include an updated bar area, new toilets, a contemporary outdoor space and an upgraded kitchen.

Entrepreneur Chris, aged 34, also runs Enterprise sites Bar Chocolate in Maidstone and Command House in Chatham. He said: "Before I took over in March, the pub was in need of some attention and we've completely transformed it. We want The Stag to be somewhere people come regularly, enjoy great drinks and great food.

"Even though it's located in the city centre, we really want to provide a local feel where passers-by become regulars and see us as their go-to pub."

Historically, The Stag has been a wet-led pub, but since Chris took over in March he has introduced a lunch and evening menu, in addition to a full vegan menu, following customer feedback. The Stag has also become the only pub in Maidstone to serve real cask ales direct from barrels that sit behind the bar in view of the customers. It also offers a comprehensive range of craft beer that complement its new menu.

Chris said: "I was very excited to bring in the barrels for customers to see, this gives them a different kind of experience. It looks really good, and it's definitely a topic of conversation around the bar!"

Enterprise regional manager Richard Mernagh said: "Chris is a great guy, and has a fantastic business head on his shoulders. I have worked with him for six years during which time he's opened two other successful Enterprise sites in the area.

"We're very excited about the transformation, Chris has a great vision for the pub and we look forward to seeing it unfold. The successful renovation is testament to the strong relationship Enterprise has with Chris and I am sure it will continue to grow in the future."

MP Helen Grant visited the pub on Friday 15th July during an official celebration to mark its reopening. Helen said "I think people visiting Maidstone's town centre will really enjoy this superbly renovated historic pub. I think The Stag's new offering as a quality food and specialist ale house will attract a wider level of trade and garner a lot of regular local custom. The ambience is great, the food and ales are delicious and the staff are lovely. I wish the Stag every success".

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