Imperial: ‘We’ll show you our plans in July’

A FULL outline of Imperial College’s ‘masterplan’ for Wye — including a possible planning application — will not be made public before July.

Addressing members of Wye Parish Council tonight (February 28) at a meeting to set up a liaison committee with the village, the college’s deputy rector, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said that SOM — the architects working on the project — would be evaluating its feasibility between March and May. Only when they reported back to Imperial, he said, would the decision be made whether to submit a planning application.

It was possible, he added, that the architects would decide that the proposed science park would not be financially feasible. ‘This may not be feasible. I think it will be, but it may not,’ he said.

In the meantime, Prof Sir Leszek said, a series of four ‘workshops’ would be set up between the architects and the local community to assess local opinion and needs. Prof Sir Leszek said that Imperial was trying to behave in an open a way as possible. ‘It is not normal to start consultation at this stage,’ he added.

The deputy rector said that Imperial wanted the liaison committee and the parish council to have some influence on the plan but be entirely independent when it came to expressing a view if and when an application is submitted. Responding to criticism that the process has, to date, been anti-democratic, Prof Sir Leszek said: ‘I have a strong democratic preference.’

Prof Sir Leszek
Prof Sir Leszek: ‘I have a strong democratic preference’

Other aspects of the scheme discussed included:

  • The main activity of the science park would be bio-fuels research. Prof Sir Leszek said that research in this area ‘is the biggest national imperative we face. We believe we can genuinely make an impact’.
  • Imperial could not guarantee that it would not try to build on some of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. ‘Can we guarantee that it will not spill out of the brownfield area?’ said Prof Sir Leszek. ‘No, we cannot.’
  • The college would not seek to build on all of its landholding in Wye. ‘No way can we build on 840 acres,’ said Prof Sir Leszek.
  • Imperial is consulting with the United Nations about siting a global UN crop centre in Wye.
  • Although the scheme will have to be funded from ‘within the capital of Wye College’, Imperial is actively seeking funding from elsewhere, including the EU’s Framework Programme 7 investment in research and development.
  • Any bio-fuels research would not result in a gigantic refinery in the area. ‘Bio-refineries are not cracking plants,’ he said.
  • The liaison committee will meet four or five times between now and July.
  • The ‘workshops’ would be used to produce what Prof Sir Leszek described as ‘a community plan’. This, he said, would help in deciding what infrastructure is required ‘when the community expands’. He said that he was referring to ‘roads, schools, water treatment, that sort of thing’.
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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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