Our elected representatives and their officers deny its existence and insist that nobody has even sat down to sketch a line on a map. But without a single word of public debate, Kent County Council has given notice to the Government that it will want in excess of £5 million of public money to build a new road from the M20 at junction 10a to Imperial’s proposed science park.
A plan for the road — which both KCC and Ashford council continue to insist does not exist — is now county council policy and is scheduled to be built between 2011 and 2016. It was adopted as policy at a meeting of KCC last week without a word by councillors, including Wye’s representative, Charles Findlay.
Reference to the road — described as ‘Wye – road to proposed research centre’ — was slipped onto the council’s agenda by Cllr Keith Ferrin, Cllr Graham Gibbens and Pete Raine, the strategic planning director, in a report to the Cabinet on the Local Transport Plan for Kent 2006 to 2011. The transport plan, which was originally submitted to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister last summer, had been sent back to KCC for refinements and because it “did not take a realistic view of funding from all sources and contained unfunded aspriations” and “lacked long-term transport vision”.
The LTP submitted on July 29 contained no reference to the road to Wye, but as part of a ‘reexamination and rationalisation’, reference to the new road was added even though this had nothing to do with ODPM’s complaints about the original document. John Prescott had sent the document back to KCC because it ‘did not take a realistic view of the limited available public sector funding’. But this was not enough, apparently, to deter KCC from demanding even more government cash to build a road to serve a scheme that it continues to maintain is ‘only an aspiration’.
Charles Findlay: silent
Astonishingly, the road was adopted without being debated or even mentioned at the meeting. A marathon address by Cllr Dan Daley, in which he pleaded for the Leeds and Langley bypass to be brought forward in the spending programme, succeeded in ‘talking out’ the agenda beyond its scheduled finish of 1pm. Under standing orders, all other agenda items — including the road to Imperial’s science park — were adopted as council policy and the revised LTP has now been sent to John Prescott for final approval.
Cllr Finlay, was present at the meeting but did not comment. One senior county councillor expressed surprise at this and said that Cllr Findlay ‘really should have commented’.
The councillor said that he thought that the adoption of the road to Wye as KCC policy had been put in to ‘appease Paul Carter [KCC’s leader] and Pete Raine’, the county council’s leading cheerleaders for Imperial. He added that he was surprised that this was being put up for public money when the science park is a commercial scheme. In these circumstances, he said, ‘the developer would normally be expected to pay for it’.
‘I just cannot understand why it has been stuck in there,’ he added.