IMPERIAL College’s plans to set up a biofuels research centre and attract funding from the United Nations first received backing from Kent County Council last spring.
In June 2005, the then KCC leader, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, met senior UN and World Bank officials in Washington in an attempt to secure funding for a global biofuels centre in Kent.
The trip was prompted by concern over the decline of traditional agriculture in Kent. He argued that Kent’s reputation as the Garden of England made it the best place in the world for cutting-edge research into non-food crops. It is believed that Kent — and by implication, Wye — is one of the sites shortlisted for the centre which would be partly funded from the UN’s Millennium Fund. Several countries in Africa are also thought to be on the shortlist.
Biofuels produce lower emissions
Sir Sandy’s trip to Washington was followed less than three months later by Imperial’s Bearman report into the future of the Wye campus which recommended that Imperial attempt to set up a global biofuels research centre in the village.
A leading county councillor told save-wye.org this week that it was this emphasis on biofuels — combined with KCC’s backing — which could prove fatal to protestors’ attempts to have Imperial’s plans thrown out at an early stage. “Fewer than one per cent of Kent’s population works in agriculture and the pressure to redevelop the county’s countryside is unrelenting. Non-food crops like biomass could prove the saviour for Kent’s agricultural industry and its farmers,” he said.
He added: “KCC is right behind this and it is clear that Imperial is serious about biofuels. So you can see that the Concordat between Kent and Imperial makes sense for both parties.”
It is not known when a decision on funding will be made. Discussions between the UN, World Bank and the Government are continuing.
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