The thousands of homes planned by Imperial College to finance its Wye science park will not count as greenfield development because they will ‘simply replace’ green field housing proposed for land south of Ashford, according to the former leader of Kent County Council.
Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the chairman of the Local Government Association and one of the latest set of working peers to be nominated for the House of Lords, was the first signatory to the original, secret concordat signed with Imperial in April last year. He will take up his seat in the Lords later this month and says that he will use it to ‘fight hard’ for the science park to go ahead.
Interviewed in tomorrow’s Kent on Sunday, Sir Sandy defends his role in the secret negotiations with Imperial and says that the plans — which would see the college sell off up to 500 acres of its Wye estate to housing developers to cover any shortfall in funding for its research park — could ‘potentially revolutionise East Kent’.
Sir Sandy, 63, a member of the Weald of Kent Preservation Society, says that he will use his new position to ‘protect’ Kent from greenfield development and that defending the county’s countryside would be one of his top priorities. However, he disputes that building on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wye would represent greenfield development. ‘We are not talking about building more houses on green fields. If there was development on green fields at Wye, that would simply replace development on green fields south of Ashford.
‘The science park could potentially revolutionise the economy of East Kent. I shall be fighting hard on the countryside protection point, but I shall also be fighting hard for the science park to go ahead.’
Sir Sandy, who farmed in Zimbabwe before moving to Kent 40 years ago, now owns a large fruit farm in Headcorn. He stepped down as KCC leader last year, to be replaced by Cllr Paul Carter — another leading cheerleader for Imperial.
Sir Sandy claims that the Conservative Party has not reversed its opposition to building on green fields despite the party’s leader, David Cameron, recently saying that too few homes were being built. ‘If there are areas of the country where people are saying you can’t build, then David Cameron is right. But in Kent, we’re not saying that We’re opposed to government levels going far higher than we’ve set and we’re opposed to greenfield building,’ Sir Sandy added.
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