His department is £9million in deficit, he wants to make 20 people redundant and he is seeking to ‘outsource’ much of the work traditionally done by members of estates staff. And, as our pictures show, David Brooks Wilson, Imperial College’s well-connected director of estates, also seems to have taken his eye off the ball when it comes to the day-to-day maintenance necessary for the upkeep of a historic set of buildings.
Perhaps the ancient campus of Wye College is just too far from London, perhaps there simply isn’t the money available to keep the buildings up to scratch or maybe there really is something else altogether going on here. But, whatever the reason, many of the buildings that comprise the historic heart of the village are in a state of disrepair — from those that simply need a lick of paint to those, like the historic farmstead at Coldharbour, which are in a shocking condition… a condition that must raise searching questions about Imperial College’s stewardship of this ancient estate. Having seen the disappearance of agricultural studies and some respected staff members from Wye College, are we about to witness the slow collapse of some of the built environment before a single planning application for a steel and glass building has even been submitted?
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to run a little series of pictures — taken by the few remaining members of staff at the college — that pose the question: what is going on in the estates department of Imperial College? We start this week with Coldharbour, one of the four historic farmsteads that make up much of the college’s Wye estate. In many ways, its condition is the most shocking of all of Imperial’s buildings in Wye. Although it is not listed, the main house is in a sad state indeed: windows are broken, damp seems to penetrate every wall, the roof is sagging and covered in moss and rot affects much of the joinery.
It has lain empty for more than two years and, over the last couple of months, workmen have gutted some of the interior. Until two weeks ago, a huge skip sat outside and contained the library of one of the principals of Wye College who used to live in this impressive building. Perhaps the workmen were unaware of the significance of the contents of this house? Perhaps they were unaware that many view the disposal of books — many of them highly personal — in such a way as nothing short of scandalous, particularly in a village that boasts the most comprehensive reuse and recycling organisation in Britain. Never mind, the books were rescued before they could be carted off to landfill.
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz is planning to turn Wye into a world leader in environmentally-friendly research. We simply ask: is tipping the contents of a historic house into a skip destined for a hole in the ground or an incinerator a particularly ‘green’ thing to do?
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