Both Ashford Borough Council and Kent Council have written directly to the housing and planning minister, Yvette Cooper, lauding the idea of the Wye Science Park and offering to ‘arrange briefings’ with Imperial College if members of the government want them.
The enthusiasm of Paul Carter, leader of KCC, and Paul Clokie, leader of Ashford, to do this unpaid PR work on behalf of Imperial seems to know few bounds; they even copied Alan Johnson of the DTI, Margaret Beckett at DEFRA and David Miliband, the local government minister into the missive. You can read their starry-eyed gushings below, thanks to Freedom of Information requests by save-wye to KCC. Sir Richard Sykes, of Imperial, wrote separately on the same subject to Gordon Brown, John Prescott, and Ruth Kelly, though that letter has not been released to us by Imperial, despite requests under the FoI.
Cllrs Carter and Clokie waxed lyrical about the proposed park which would, they said, ‘develop Wye as one of a handful of top science research facilities in the world, focusing on bio-fuels and pharmaceuticals’. But as residents were to learn the same day as the letter, December 6, there would be a cost.
‘In order to promote effective commercial and industrial exploitation of the outcomes, Wye Park will incorporate a sizeable “commercial park”. Apart from the scientists themselves and their immediate support staff, it is conservatively estimated that the project will generate up to 5,000 high quality “knowledge economy” jobs directly and a further 7,500 indirect jobs in the Wye and Ashford areas over the ext 15-20 years.’
As part of the deal, the letter says, Imperial would locate 300 administrative support staff in Ashford itself. ‘These give a reality to Ashford’s emerging “brand” as a place of opportunity which exploits its unique connectivity and its wonderful setting.”
On the second page, the letter notes, however, ‘A challenging feature of the proposal is that all of Imperial College’s landholding at Wye is within the Kent Downs AONB’, adding, ‘It will also be important to ensure that any development of Imperial College’s presence at Wye is done sensitively and in a way that complements the essential characteristics of the village and the local community.’