Category Archives: Big Society

‘Staplehurstmakers’ make a name for themselves as local MP lends support

Meeting at the aptly named Helen’s Coffee House in Staplehurst High Street, Helen Grant talked with members of the collective of skilled tradespeople known as Staplehurstmakers to learn about their refreshing approach to business.

The group of artisans, designers and makers are all based in the Staplehurst area. Together they aim to encourage and support each other through monthly meetings and by raising the profile of local handmade goods through quarterly craft fairs in Staplehurst.

Their established meeting place is Staplehurst’s independently owned Helen’s coffee house under the vibrant proprietorship of Helen Rose.

After her meeting Helen Grant said ‘It was great to meet some of the members of Staplehurst makers. With their mutual support I am sure the collective will enjoy great success and I wish them well’.

It was also good to see Helen’s Coffee House becoming very much a community hub for Staplehurst. The owner told me she is about to launch a board and card games morning for local people who are seeking a bit of a giggle and a chat over tea and a bun – what a lovely idea’.

Helen at Helen's coffee house
Helen at Helen’s coffee house

Helen calls for more political engagement from minority communities

Maidstone BME forum were delighted to have Helen Grant MP and the Deputy Mayor of Maidstone, Councillor Malcolm Greer together with 200 guests from 20 different countries around the globe, all coming together to enjoy celebrating Maidstone’s diverse borough and the achievements of the forum over the last year.

The event was designed for sharing cultures and traditions; to meet new friends, find out more about the Maidstone BME forum and learn more about services available to new arrivals to the Borough.

Helen Grant MP spoke passionately about the need to embrace and celebrate our diversity and to counter the national 85% increase in hate related crime that has emerged following the Brexit referendum.

Helen said ‘events such as our Maidstone BME Forum multi-cultural celebration on Saturday are precisely what is needed to sustain happy and cohesive communities. It is also vital that people from diverse backgrounds engage with the political process if they are to effect positive change. Registering to vote is a good start, but I would encourage people to stand for election in public office, at all levels”.

Jacqueline Bobb, Maidstone BME Forum facilitator and Service Manager from Involve Kent said “The BME multi-cultural celebration event was truly inspirational. I am so proud of our BME ladies who worked so hard to pull it all together. The event was really owned by the communities themselves and it was a joy to watch the enthusiasm and talent of our local musicians and dancers who proudly showed off their traditions and demonstrated just how diverse and talented our borough has become”.

Lottery offers £10,000 to local groups

The Big Lottery Fund is calling on local groups to apply for funding to hold events or activities that will bring people together and celebrate what makes their local community special.

Applications for funding opened on 6 July 2016 and further information can be found here

Helen Grant, who used to be the Lotteries Minister, told MWCA: “This is a great opportunity for people in my constituency to celebrate something in our local history, or a local community hero, to mark something important to the community or simply to get to know our neighbours better”.

“After the unwelcome divisions created by the referendum this is a super opportunity to bring people together again”.

Helen Grant MP attends Maidstone Apprentice Academy Open Day

MP for Maidstone and the Weald Helen Grant was delighted to visit Maidstone based Apprentice Academy 3aaa at their premise in Knightrider Street recently.

Helen with staff members of 3AA Maidstone and Ashleigh Porter-Exley
Helen with staff members of 3AA Maidstone and Ashleigh Porter-Exley

3aaa (aspire, achieve, advance) are a purpose built academy serving the Kent area. They provide professional and exciting Apprenticeship frameworks to inspire students to achieve academic success. Their particular fields of focus are within IT, Digital and Social Media and Business.

The Open Day welcomed members of Kent Chamber of Commerce, local employers and apprentices as well as Ashleigh Porter-Exley, Winner of BBC Young Apprentice 2012 and 3aaa Ambassador. Mrs Grant had an opportunity to chat to hopeful applicants in between their specialist training sessions, about why they have chosen an apprenticeship and what they hope to achieve with their qualification.

The Academy already have a history of success and are proud to be recognised as the only Training Provider to achieve Ofsted Outstanding in all areas on first inspection. They told Helen about how this helped them to be able to deliver life changing opportunities to many young people.

New Academy Manager Trayciegh Hendy said:

“As well as offering a first-class learning experience in our fully functional Academy, with 2 operational training rooms, we teach our students vital life skills to prepare them for the ever-changing world of work based learning. We are proud to be able to have such a positive impact on the local community, helping to change the lives of our younger generation, by showcasing and promoting the power of apprenticeships”

When speaking of the visit, Helen Grant said:

“I feel very proud to have such a fantastic institution in my constituency. The academy and its staff are so enthusiastic and passionate about their work. Providing our young people with the best start to get on in life and have a rewarding career is vital. Apprenticeships are beneficial not only to them, but to our local businesses too.

The Government is committed to delivering three million more apprenticeships by 2020. With such valuable amenities on our doorstep in Maidstone, I see apprenticeships becoming viable for a wider range of young people in future.”

If you or someone you know is interested in starting an apprenticeship then you can find out more information here: If you’d like to find out more about 3aaa Maidstone then please contact Trayciegh Hendy via or visit the website

Helen Grant visits Mencap with fellow MPs

MP Helen Grant visited a playgroup session at Maidstone Mencap in Cobtree Hall recently to meet with President Andrew Wells and Trustees. She was joined by her fellow Vice Presidents Tom Tugendhat MP, Helen Whately MP & Pat Wilmshurst.

Helen with two children at Mencap
Helen helps make Christmas cards

Maidstone Mencap aim to make a positive difference to the lives of all with learning disabilities, their families and carers within Maidstone and the surrounding areas. The Vice Presidents heard about the fundraising challenges that are facing Mencap at the moment, with work urgently needed for the roof at Cobtree Hall. They also helped with playgroup for the children with learning difficulties in attendance.

Helen told MWCA: “I am a regular visitor to Maidstone Mencap and it is always a pleasure to meet and talk with the dedicated volunteers. The enjoyment gained by those who attend their sessions is clear to see. It’s a fun, happy and relaxed environment. I hope our efforts for fundraising can see that continue.”

Tom Tugendhat MBE MP, Member of Parliament for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling said “I am honoured to be a Vice President of Maidstone Mencap. Cobtree Hall has an inspirational team of staff and volunteers supporting kids, carers and families by providing learning and much needed respite. But the building is in need of work and I am going to do what I can to help raise the money to ensure that their dedicated service to our community can continue. More volunteers would also be welcome – particularly minibus drivers.”

Helen Whately MP, Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent said “It was a privilege to visit Maidstone Mencap and see the amazing things they do for people with learning disabilities and their families. I met lots of volunteers and heard about how they help children develop and give carers some much-needed respite. There are great services there for teenagers and adults too. Although it’s a fantastic facility, with lots of support from the community, the building badly needs repair. I’ll be supporting the charity in its quest to raise the £100,000 it needs so that it continues its inspirational work.”

Mrs Grant echoed the comments of her colleagues in offering support to raise money for desperately needed repairs, when speaking to Trustees. It is hoped that the local communities around Maidstone can group together to support this wonderful initiative.

Cranbrook Town Centre regeneration is set to proceed

Last night the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council planning committee conditionally approved an application to demolish buildings on the Cranbrook Engineering site. This has opened the way for town centre regeneration and the building of a new community centre.

Conservative MP Helen Grant has long been campaigning for this outcome alongside the Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council Kent County Councillor Sean Holden. She attended the Town Hall in support.

After hearing the decision Helen said “Progress at last. I am delighted with this decision. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have listened to the people of Cranbrook and now work can commence on regeneration. I am so happy for the Cranbrook community.”

Helen Grant with KCC and TWBC Cllr Sean Holden and other happy campaigners at Tunbridge Wells Town Hall last night.
Helen Grant with KCC and TWBC Cllr Sean Holden and other happy campaigners at Tunbridge Wells Town Hall last night.

Overwhelming support for Community Hub plan

Helen with her survey responses
Helen with her survey responses

Maidstone & The Weald MP Helen Grant has revealed the results of her recent survey of Cranbrook Residents ahead of next week’s planning committee meeting at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in the fight for Cranbrook’s new Community Hub.

The results were as follows;

· 538 (94.4%) were in favour of demolishing the existing buildings to enable redevelopment

· 18 (3.1%) were in favour of preserving the existing buildings

· 14 (2.5%) were undecided

Responses included an array of additional comments, the most common being that the existing site is an eyesore and that the town is presently dying and something must be done for its long term commercial sustainability.

One Hartley resident said “If this application is refused it will send out a message that Cranbrook is closed to change and closed to business”.

Another from Oatfield Drive, Cranbrook said “Current appearance of Stone Street does not encourage people to shop in Cranbrook.”

A former employee of the Engineering Site from Goddards Close said “The Cranbrook Engineering site is so badly hacked about since the 1960’s that nothing historic that remains is in context”.

One resident of Bakers Cross, Cranbrook said “Although I am a long standing National Trust member, the argument for preservation is just not compelling enough to block a much needed facility”.

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

Helen Grant said “I’ve known for years the strength of feeling about this situation but now we have it in writing. Such a huge majority must be heard by those who they elected to serve them. I am conveying this information to the planning committee urging them to approve this application for demolition and allow Cranbrook a chance to grow and thrive.

Cllr Sean Holden
Cllr Sean Holden

KCC and TWBC Cllr Seán Holden said “This survey by our MP, Helen Grant, shows that the people of Cranbrook think this development is absolutely the right thing for their town. It will enable us to get a much needed Community Hub and it will clear away a mess at the heart of one Kent’s finest towns”.

Helen increases pressure in fight for Cranbrook Community Hub

Helen Grant has stepped up the pressure in the fight for Cranbrook’s new Community Hub.

Helen Grant campaigns for community centre in Cranbrook
Helen Grant campaigns in Cranbrook

She has personally written to almost 2000 local households asking for their views and comments on the value of preserving the unoccupied buildings off Stone Street, or allowing their demolition to make way for two projects; a town centre regeneration scheme and a new Community Hub.

A new purpose-built Community Hub in the centre of town could be built upon land donated to the Parish Council by a private individual. But the viability of the Hub project is dependent upon infrastructure funded by an adjacent mixed-use development in the derelict Cranbrook Engineering site off Stone Street, owned by the same person. The two projects go hand in hand.

To enable their regeneration project to proceed the developers have submitted an application to demolish the buildings on the Cranbrook Engineering site, save for one Grade II listed structure. An application and a subsequent appeal to Historic England for the listing of other buildings on the site was rejected earlier this year.

The demolition application goes before the Planning Committee on 11th November 2015, who must then take a decision about what is more important to the community; the preservation of the existing buildings or the benefits that a regenerated town centre and new Community Hub could provide the residents and traders of Cranrbook.

Helen Grant MP told MWCA “I have worked with Councillor Seán Holden and others on this campaign for 7 years and there has always been strong local support for a modern purpose built replacement for the Council Offices that were demolished in 2011. Those I have met who are opposed I could count on one hand.”

“I am therefore asking the people of Cranbrook to confirm in writing what they have told me over the years and I will convey that to TWBC in no uncertain terms. I am determined that the voice of the majority of the people from Cranbrook shall be heard on this matter.”

Helping First Time Buyers get their own home

People power - Vote ConservativeIn just one month over 50,000 first-time buyers have signed up to our the Government’s new Starter Home scheme – each one moving a step closer to owning their own home.

Starter Homes are part of our plan to get Britain building again and help people get on in life. Under the scheme a Conservative government will build 200,000 homes for first-time buyers under 40 – giving them the opportunity to buy a new home at 20% below the normal price.

And with Help to Buy, our policy to bring down the cost of a deposit, we’ve helped more than 88,000 families buy their own home – the vast majority first-time buyers.

Home ownership helps people stand on their own two feet and is one of the clearest symbols of a country that rewards hard work. That’s why it goes to the heart of our values and our long-term economic plan – and why we’re committed to helping people own their own home.

Benenden Village shows how to use the Localism Bill

Helen Grant has praised the community of Benenden in creating a vision of the future for their idyllic Kentish Village.

On Saturday 7th February 2015 Helen was amongst almost two hundred local people who attended the Village Hall in Benenden to see the 40 minute launch presentation for the Parish Plan.

Created by people living in the village it combines the results of a wide ranging survey conducted in 2013 with creative forward thinking ideas.  It seeks to balance the will of the people with the wider needs of the County of Kent.  Headings include housing, well-being, the environment, communications, transport, young people, and much more.

Local MP Helen Grant was formally presented with a copy of the Benenden Village plan at the launch presentation.  She said:

‘The Localism Bill was designed to give power to local communities to create their own vision and Benenden have picked up that baton with both hands’.

‘This is not just about housing, it is a holistic plan for the future of the village, and its people, in every facet of community life.  I commend this work and see it as a worthy template for others to follow.’

Helen Grant MP with members of the Steering Committee behind the Benenden Parish Plan 2015
Helen Grant MP with members of the Steering Committee behind the Benenden Parish Plan 2015