Shiny happy people holding hands

Something called Wye Harvard?

A picture called Wye Harvard showing the scale of ICL’s ambition. Can those scientists really be drinking coffee together?

The sun shines, the buildings are beautiful, there is not a speck of cement to be seen and the only new houses are the ones inhabited by beaming Nobel Laureates. Welcome to Wye at Imperial College. Welcome to www.wyecampusvision.org.uk

OK, so it’s only a website and it has more omissions in it than a dodgy dossier, but the picture that Tamesis PR’s online creation paints is an alluring one. There are no plans, it tells us, failing to mention the fact that a big fat report by planning consultants Gerald Eve sits in a locked drawer at County Hall or that Ernst & Young produced their first comments on this project for Imperial nearly three years ago.

Instead, we get pretty pictures of buildings, scientists drinking coffee and sculptured bridges over babbling brooks (that’s brooks, not Brooks Wilson). We get assurances about Imperial’s commitment to ‘comprehensive consultation arrangements with the local community’ (no mention that the villages bordering this thing are ‘not a priority’ or that Imperial’s timetable for consulting on this has already slipped by at least two months). No mention either of Professor Sir Leszek’s outburst at Tamesis at Tuesday’s meeting with Wye Parish Council when he found out they hadn’t produced the minutes from last time. Come on guys, he stormed, you are being paid ‘an awful lot of money’.

Considerable work has gone into this thing. There’s a vision of a world-class research centre which will save the planet from the inevitable fuel Armageddon, something that ‘ensures very high standards and quality of the built environment’ and the establishment of a ‘sustainable academic community dedicated to working on pioneering research (forgive me, but didn’t we have a sustainable and profitable academic community before Imperial decided to close it down?). There’s even an exemplar (don’t those chaps wear chain mail and guard the Holy Grail or something?) research community. What there isn’t mention of is the old Borys ‘Wye will become a town, get used to it’ line, the appalling secrecy and collusion between the puppeteers in South Kensington and their marionettes at Springfield and Tannery Lane and the rather unfortunate fact that we’ve read all of this guff before.

Something called Wye Bridge

The babbling brook under the bridge at Wye … and not a Jaguar XK to be seen

The website seeks to dispel some of the ‘myths’ that have sprung up around this scheme. It is not, says Tamesis:

  • A proposal which dispenses with the existing village heritage
  • An industrial park with manufacturing units
  • A new high density ‘city’ (oops, did somebody take David Hewson’s excellent April Fool at face value?)
  • A generator of through-traffic traversing the village (no mention here of KCC’s application for government cash to build a ‘road from the M20 to new research park at Wye’)
  • A blight in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a landcape ‘covered in concrete’ (didn’t somebody say something about 300 acres of housing somewhere? Now, who could that have been?)

Tamesis are anxious to stress that they want to keep us informed. We hope that they will and we also hope that they learn to use apostrophes pretty quickly.

They are, after all, being paid ‘an awful lot of money’.

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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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2 Responses to Shiny happy people holding hands

  1. Jo says:

    A lot of money for something that’s only an idea and not a plan.

    In March 2005 Imperial and KCC were only a ‘week or so’ away from being able to meet to discuss building footprints, elevations, density and ‘the relationship between the principal development and residential elements within Phase 1 and beyond’ [yes, this is only phase 1 – will the rest of the land be sold off and built on in subsequent phases?].

    q.v. save-wye passim : http://save-wye.org/2006/03/03/smoking-gun-suggests-icl-plans-existed-year-ago/

    I’m not an architect but I know enough about the development process to know that if you’re discussing elevations, densities and the like, there will be site drawings showing exactly what’s were. Just because Imperial’s site plans may change (and in my experience they’ll keep changing until the contractors rumble in), it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a plan.

    And all that was over a year ago – the plans (sorry…ideas) will be much firmer now. If they are seriously considering putting in a planning application this summer, they will already have some pretty detailed plans of exactly what is where.

    They will almost certainly have been discussing them off-the-record (an FOI-free zone) with Ashford’s planning department for a long time already: if you can get both your planners and your politicians on side, you can get almost anything through planning, and Imperial will want to make sure the path ahead has been smoothed as far possible, to save time, money and eggy faces.

  2. jack woodford says:

    Visiting a Trade Exhibition yesterday near Maidstone, i was somewhat suprised to find a booth promoting the Sittingbourne Science Park…again lots of glossy brochures, filled with happy smiling Scientists, and Landscaped Parks, with nice shiny new buildings…there are apparently 114 acres of available space, plus 507,000 sq ft of accomodation…the Labour MP for Sittingbourne, Derek Wyatt, is now in favour of downgrading all these facilities, and concentrating all effort in the new Science Park at Wye… is this the hand of the ODPM behind a Labour MP? once again we are left wondering about collusion between a Tory Controlled Council and a Labour Government

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