The Reporter’s review of 2019: News we brought you from across Dartford and Gravesend this year
PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 December 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, the Reporter takes a look back at some of the biggest stories to have come out of Dartford and Gravesend this year.
Firefighters battled for 40 minutes to control a mystery blaze at a Dartford industrial estate. Luckily, no injuries were reported but the police were also called in to investigate.
Still with the police, they awarded a Gravesend teenager a District Commander Award. Sean Young, 17, kept his head when a man suffered a seizure on a bus. Sean raised the alarm and kept the scene under control.
The police again came to the rescue when they were able to reunite owners with a batch of stolen Christmas presents.
An ejected clubber was jailed for 28 years after driving a car on to the dance floor at Blake's nightclub in Gravesend. Mohammed Abdul injured eight, two seriously.
A jury at Maidstone Crown Court found his guilty of two counts of attempted murder.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told him: "Your motive was selfish and pathetic: it was revenge at being thrown out for being drunk."
Pub landlord Sean Holland's lifelong determination to raise a fortune for cancer research was rewarded with a long service award from Stone Parish Council.
The landlord of The Lads of the Village, Elizabeth Street, Greenhithe, had served the community for 40 years and was the biggest fundraising landlord in the borough.
Teenagers behind Thrive in Gravesend were hoping their podcasts would cast a sympathetic light on those suffering from mental health issues. The conversations were put together by four young people aged 15 to 18.
Meopham School celebrated getting top marks from Ofsted. It was judged Outstanding by inspectors who said teaching was inspirational. Headteacher Suzanne Dickinson said: "Our staff and students have worked incredibly hard to create an exceptional learning environment."
Bluewater shopping centre revealed it was going to do 20 good deeds for the community to mark its 20 years in business.
The community projects would be carried out throughout the year and beyond. Bluewater said the projects would receive a mix of funds and staff time by way of thanks to the communities that have supported it.
And it was off to HMS Collingwood for Gravesend Royal Navy cadets to learn the ropes
of what it takes to serve in the RN.
Lidl announced a new Gravesend store in Coldharbour Road. Plans were submitted for a 22,000 sqft Lidl, plus 35,000 sqft six-unit trade city.
A cyclist was fined for riding his bike through an area under a Public Space Protection Order aimed at protecting shoppers.
He was seen riding through New Road, Gravesend where cycling is not permitted between 10am and 6pm.
The Chapel Nursery in West Hill, Dartford, was opened in what used to be a chapel.
Mayor Cllr David Mote cut the ribbon and said the transformation from dilapidated place of worship was "simply stunning". The chapel had been part of the
old West Hill Hospital.
A fresh name was added to the list of Churchill's The Few.
Sgt Donald Brown flew Blenheims with
604 Squadron and
after extensive research, he was awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp. The squadron was based for a while at Gravesend.
Wrangling over the A2 Bean interchange continued with the Campaign Protection of Rural England Kent Dartford and Gravesham branch deciding the plans already agreed returned poor value for money. The changes would require demolition of cottages and the eviction of Spirits Rest horse sanctuary.
The communities secretary, James Brokenshire toured the Castle Hill development in Ebbsfleet to check on progress of the so-called Garden
The London Resort theme park at Swanscombe was back on track, thanks to a tie-in with ITV.
The company behind it declared everything was back on schedule, thanks to this partnership.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said he wanted all stations in Gravesham and Dartford to
be converted for smart ticketing.
The local elections saw Labour gain Gravesham from the Conservatives, while the Tories held on to Dartford.
Kent police revealed during the previous year they legally seized £2m from criminals. This included a Gravesend couple who were told to forfeit £90,000 after they dealt in drugs.
Gravesend girl Nancy Connelly set up a young activist group to help keep Gravesham litter free. And she was just 12. She said:"We are picking up litter from the streets to provide a much cleaner home town for everyone.
A police appeal was made after a new born baby boy was left outside Darent Valley hospital.
Natural England asked for public input over plans to open up 49 miles of coastline to walkers, including sections in Gravesend, Dartford and Erith.
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A hapless Jack Russell terrier was rescued by the RSPCA after somehow becoming trapped between two houses in Devonshire Avenue, Dartford. Animal collection officer Paul Taylor said: "This poor girl was lucky to be rescued as she was well and truly wedged between the two buildings."
Police set up screens at the Orchard Shopping Centre with images of suspects wanted around the Dartford area.
Community stalwart Sandra Scotting was made an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours.
Sandra, from Longfield, had been involved in a variety of causes. She fought to save Steephill School, Hartley, from closing in 1989 and became the school's trust secretary.
She also worked on creating a memorial to the 173 people who died in the Bethnal Green train disaster in 1943.
Major news with the Swanscombe peninsula theme park - Paramount was back on board.
It was once going to be completely centred on the Hollywood movie maker, but the company suddenly dropped out putting the whole project in jeopardy.
Now called The London Resort, Paramount revealed it was teaming up as a partner. The company has the likes of The Italian Job and The Godfather in its vaults, and they could be among the attractions of the park which is said to be just five years away.
It emerged that Dartford is apparently the birthplace of the sport of netball.
Local MP Gareth Johnson revealed the news saying: "It is possibly one of the best kept secrets that netball was first played right here in Dartford in 1895."
An airport style metal detecting archway was brought in by police in Gravesend and Dartford in a bid to reduce knife crime.
Seven Dartford residents struck gold, winning £180,000 each in the Postcode Lottery.
The celebrity team from the organisers spent the day in the town delivering their famous golden cheques to several homes in Phillips Close. One of them had two tickets, doubling their win.
Winner Kerry Ferguson said: "This is life changing."
Green-fingered ex-offenders attending the No Walls Gardens project in Northfleet, could enjoy a £13,000 grant to expand the valuable life and work skills scheme to keep those who attend out of future trouble. It provides a six-week course teaching gardening and landscaping skills.
The Indian Youth Federation planned to mark its 50th anniversary. One founder Balwinder Rana said he has seen a tidal wave of change since its launch in 1969 with everyday racism giving way to more tolerance. However, he said more must still be done today.
The need for safer roads was highlighted in Dartford with the launch of a new website on the first anniversary of campaigner Darren Povey's son, Dean, 14, being hit by a car in Temple Hill.
Mr Povey said: "After the accident, we realised just how dangerous Kent, and in particular, Dartford's roads are."
Another anniversary being celebrated was with Gravesend's street pastors. Some 10 years after the scheme was launched, founder Rev Les Isaac was back in town to swear in a new batch of volunteers whose soothing attitudes and style can often diffuse situations that might turn out differently had the pastors not been there.
There was sad news with the death of PJ the DJ as Paul Harris was known. The 72-year-old from Gravesend had been a staple of the air waves in the county. He was in plenty of pantos and even appeared at the London Palladium and cruise ships with his old school variety style.
Cross party members of Dartford Council signed up to a joint venture to ensure they are ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change.
Council leader Jeremy Kite said: "Our aim should be to go as far, and as fast, as we can whilst taking everyone with us and doing things are that practical and supportable."
A charity golf day in memory of Gravesend
cancer victim Ricki Neil-Jones was held at Redlibbets Golf and Country Club, Sevenoaks, and raised
money towards fighting the disease.
His mother Sue Harris said: "Ricki was a kind, gentle, feisty person who loved life and lived it to its fullest potential."
A project to help restore the River Darent in central Dartford was revealed. Its aim was to bring a clear, chalk river habitat to
Central Park for wildlife and locals to enjoy. A key goal was to create an improved free passage for fish migration.
Dartford Council rejected plans to convert the first floor of the former Talk of the Town club into a place of worship.
A church group that had been using it were told their worshipping was in fact illegal on that site. There were worries over the negative impact it would have on a nearby residential area.
Cabbie Ben Lacomba was found guilty of murdering Sarah Wellgreen from
New Ash Green, and was jailed for life. Lacomba consistently denied having anything to do with her disappearance during a
trial at Woolwich Crown Court. Her body was never found.
Bus driver Kenneth Matcham, 60, from Gravesend, died in a horror smash with another bus and car. Police called for witnesses to come forward to the incident in Sevenoaks Road, Orpington. It happened on October 31 and paramedics had to treat another 15 people for a range of injuries, three of whom were serious.
We got our first detailed glimpse of what The London Resort theme part at Swanscombe will look like.
It will be made up of six "next generation" lands, and will in fact eventually be two parks.
PY Gerbeau, chief executive, said: "We are creating a first-class theme park - a destination that maximises all the new immersive and interactive technology and experiences in the world."
The Stone Intergeneration Project was launched to bring young and old together in a way they learn from each other. Organiser, local councillor Kelly Grehan, said: "Giving all children opportunities to engage with older people can be key to enhancing their life experiences."
Extinction Rebellion campaigner Richard Bayfield declared he was shunning jet planes to make his way home to Gravesend from Nepal in the greenest way possible. This will be by foot, bus and train taking eight months rather than a few hours by air.