The oblique reference to the expansion of Imperial College’s campus in Wye is to be dumped from the Local Development Framework and the concordats signed with Kent and Ashford councils last year are to be scrapped, save-wye.org has learned.
A senior source within county hall has told us that — in response to the threat of legal action by the Wye Future Group — the statement on the future of Imperial’s presence in Wye and the cryptic references to keeping the ‘world-class institution’ and ‘related research and business opportunities’ are to be deleted from the LDF core strategy options drawn up in the summer of last year. The source told us that Ashford council is ‘running scared’ and that Imperial College had ‘gone ballistic’ and had, at one point in recent discussions, threatened the two authorities with legal action.
The revelation coincides with the release of a document by KCC which shows that both it and Ashford are still engaging in secret discussions with Imperial, despite repeated protestations to the contrary. The document — titled ‘record of a meeting held with Imperial College, KCC and Ashford BC on 3 March 2006’ — shows that:
- Imperial College is clearly censoring the release of documents held by Ashford and KCC under the Freedom of Information Act.
- KCC and Ashford are trying to extricate themselves from ‘personal commitments’ made to Imperial’s plan in the original secret concordat. Now, according to the document, they ‘re-affirmed that they looked forward to the exploration of the Wye Park idea and to ensuring that it is handled in the planning process in the same transparent way as all other proposals’.
Local man: Pete Raine
- Pete Raine, KCC’s strategic planning director, is to chair a group that will ‘focus on the environmental issues raised by the Wye Park idea’. Mr Raine is an environmentalist turned local government official who lives in Stowting. Before joining KCC, he worked at the Centre for Alternative Technology and the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation. As well as earning a six-figure salary at County Hall, he is the director of a property company based near Rye and Locate in Kent — the business quango set up by KCC to attract inward investment to the county which also boasts David Brooks Wilson, the Jaguar XK-driving Director of Estates at Imperial College, among its directors.
- Imperial College is to ‘provide a framework outlining the key stages and broad timetable proposed for the master-planning process as soon as possible’.