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Review of the year 2018 part two: Statues, beluga whales and naked calendars

PUBLISHED: 11:30 31 December 2018

Members of the Orchard Theatre choir bare all for the March image. Photo: The Orchard Theatre/Fiona Bond

Members of the Orchard Theatre choir bare all for the March image. Photo: The Orchard Theatre/Fiona Bond

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Following on from yesterday’s look back at the first six months of 2018, we continue our review of the year with a round-up of the biggest news stories from the last six months.

The statue was unveiled at St Andrew's Gardens. Picture: Gravesham Borough CouncilThe statue was unveiled at St Andrew's Gardens. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

July

Talks start to merge licensing departments of Gravesham and Medway councils. They look after all aspects of things like taxis, gambling, and street trading.

As vaping becomes more popular, new figures find the number of smokers steadily declines, and it’s the 18-24 year olds helping by simply saying no to cigarettes.

Drivers are told yet again to park sensibly outside schools and to cut down on their anti-social behaviour of blocking drives and ignoring crossing guards.

County councillor Ann Allen told us: “Most of the complaints I get are around the attitude of parents in the way that they park indiscriminately and cause problems.”

A Dartford thug has been jailed for life for the Rolex murder of a young father killed for his valuable timepiece.

Jordan Bailey-Mascoll, 26, killed Danny Pearce as he walked with his girlfriend in Greenwich. He was stabbed for not handing over the watch and died.

August

A rare statue of the Queen was unveiled in St Andrew’s Gardens.

Produced by Douglas Jennings, the ceremony was attended by various VIPs, including council leader Cllr David Turner who said: “A lot of hard work was put in to it by people and of course Douglas Jennings has done an incredible job.”

A bizarre glitch in the Kent police financial system led to them finding an extra £1 million.

It was spotted during an audit which revealed an under-spend over several years meant an account built up funds. It was made public by PCC Matthew Scott in his annual report.

Health now, and the Kent and Medway Sustainability Transformation Partnership believe hubs are the answer to more patients receiving the medical help then need.

This includes one in Dartford to consolidate six GP surgeries into one town centre building to create a “more holistic” seven-day service.

September

Crossrail will miss its planned December opening, it is predicted, with a push back to Autumn 2019 because the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood needed more work.

More calls to cut traffic speed limits to 20mph outside schools are made after several children are hurt in collisions.

Plans for a new four-form school in Stone gather pace.

Gareth Johnson MP goes to Cyprus to demand answers in the case of the murder of George Low, 22, in 2016. It is thought two suspects had fled across the border into northern Cyprus, out of reach of southern Cyprus authorities.

The Kent Public Health Observatory reveals shocking statistics suggesting it’s elderly women at highest risk of heart failure and diabetes.

Benny the beluga whale arrives in the Thames.

October

A clamp-down by Dartford council resulted in 284 written notices warning businesses to polish up their food hygiene practices.

Inspectors visited 932 companies in the area – the warnings were mainly for cleanliness and separation of cooked and uncooked foods.

Staff training issues were also tackled, along with washing facilities.

Six businesses were given high risk scores forcing a second full inspection within six months.

There were also concerns about 1,300 vulnerable children being moved in to Kent, but there were also 34 new police officers on the streets.

There should be a mental health expert in every school, said Cllr Diane Marsh. It comes as it’s revealed 1,700 Kent students needed help.

The new Kent Essex link would double road capacity, says Highways England as the pros and cons are continued to be discusses by those for and against the road.

No fireworks display to avoid scaring Benny the beluga.

November

The police sometimes come in for harsh criticisms for not talking stalking seriously enough, but officers in Dartford revealed they are dealing with an average of five new cases every day.

That is triple what it used to be in 2015 so the Home Office backed the Stalking Protection Bill to halt perpetrators earlier, and impose orders to stay away or go to jail for up to five years.

The disappearance of Sarah Wellgreen, 46, from New Ash Green was still a mystery.

Police and the public have been scouring the area, with detectives watching hours of CCTV footage.

Gravesend gran Mariyana Andreeva leapt into action when a fellow train passenger went into labour.

The 56-year-old was unflappable and helped deliver a baby boy. She told us: “On the third push, the baby came out.”

Rows continue over a third Thames crossing, and there are Crossrail delays, but Dartford Tunnel celebrated its 55th anniversary.

December

The council revealed that businesses had been having a whale of a time on the back of increased tourism thanks to Benny the beluga.

Councillor David Turner, Leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said: “Benny has become a firm favourite here in Gravesend.

“We postponed the annual fireworks event to keep Benny safe and everyone has really taken to our campaign to #KeepBennySafe.

“It is fantastic to see so many visitors coming to Gravesend to spot a glimpse of Benny. We’ve had messages from as far away as Australia asking how Benny is.”

The Orchard Theatre was preparing to put on a production of Calendar Girls, so of course all the staff decided to completely strip off and make their own naked calendar for charity.

Theatre staff, volunteers and choir stripped off for the shoot with photographer Fiona Bond.

It features the people who work at the venue each day, from the front of house staff to the backstage technical team.

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