Councils ‘are bound’ to honour commitments to ICL

They all deny it but evidence continues to mount that Ashford Borough and Kent County Council have entered into some form of private but firm commitment to support Imperial College’s plans to redevelop the Wye campus with a science park and housing.

The latest Freedom of Information disclosures to by Ashford council show that, before the storm of controversy fell on the project earlier this year, both the leader, Cllr Paul Clokie, and chief executive David Hill were enthusiastic supporters of Imperial’s plans.

The disclosures, which are in hard copy form only at the moment, show that:

  • The opening page of the secret Project Alchemy website being run for Imperial by Ernst & Young for all the parties to the project — including Ashford and KCC — states that they are ‘committed to co-operation and working together to secure the achievement of our collective goals of creating a world-class science research facility that will bring prosperity, sustainable regeneration and act as a major driver for the Ashford area’.
  • The councils are using the secure website — which has a secret address — to communicate with Imperial in electronic form only in an effort to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act and keep their activities and discussions confidential.
  • Letters from Cllr Clokie and Mr Hill to the Environment Agency and the Stour Valley Fisheries Association on the eve of the public announcement on December 8 clearly state that the council ‘is committed to working with Imperial as their plans firm up’.
  • The ‘starry-eyed’ letter to Yvette Cooper in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister from Cllr Clokie and the leader of KCC, Paul Carter, (which can be read here) dated December 6 which shows clear support for Imperial says that Ms Cooper’s support for the project ‘will be of great importance in achieving our ambitious aims’. The letter is the clearest indication yet that Ashford has prejudiced its own position in the planning process in that it has already indicated overt support for Imperial’s plans to the Government which may yet decide to call in a planning application by Imperial.
  • Parties to the concordat have had meetings with a mysterious character — referred to only as ‘A’ — since the signings. will be posting the latest FOI releases when we have them available in electronic form. Ashford council has refused to release the following documents, claiming that to make them public would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views with Imperial. will be appealing over the exemptions.

  1. Undated print out of E&Y Powerpoint presentation – creating a job rich environment
  2. Undated Project Alchemy timetable
  3. Undated 3x plans of Wye
  4. Undated extract of discussion document entitled ‘Key Messages’
  5. Undated document headed ‘thoughts’
  6. Undated document headed ‘Wye considerations’
  7. Undated document headed ‘Imperial proposals at Wye’
  8. June 2005 print out of E&Y Powerpoint presentation ‘Project Alchemy’
  9. June 16, 2005 print out of email ‘Alchemy’ with handwritten notes
  10. September 13, 2005 print out of email ‘Ashford’s Future – Operation Alchemy’
  11. September 16, 2005 memo headed ‘Operation Alchemy: Meeting on 13 September 2005’
  12. November 7, 2005 print out of email ‘Alchemy’
  13. December 16, 2005 print out of email ‘Subject Wye Public Meeting – 9 Jan’
  14. January 01, 2006 print out of email ‘Meeting with “A” – 4 January’
  15. January 03, 2006 print out of email ‘Fw: Meeting with “A” 4 January”

About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome, Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, adaptions of the Sarah Lund stories in Copenhagen, and versions of Shakespeare worked for Audible.
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