Come on chaps, can’t we sort this out over lunch?

My colleague, David Hewson, has already said this, but forgive me for re-iterating it: we don’t believe in conspiracies round here but we have noticed some remarkable connections between the people who run our county and the people who have come up with or are openly backing the Wye Park proposal. And here’s another one, make of it what you will:

On May 23, the Lord Lieutenant of Kent — Alan Willett CMG — is hosting a lunch at his house in Chilham. We have no idea what fine vintages will be drunk, nor what Kentish Fayre will be consumed but we do know that the subject of the discussions will be Imperial’s ambitions and we do know who is on the guest list:

  • Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College
  • Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Deputy Rector of Imperial College
  • Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, newly enobled chairman of the Local Government Association, former leader of Kent County Council, signatory to the original ‘concordat’ and a man who can’t seem to decide whether he’s in favour of Imperial concreting over half the AONB or not
  • Paul Carter, current KCC leader, second ‘concordat’ signatory and cheerleader for Imperial
  • Paul Clokie, leader of Ashford Borough Council, signatory to both concordats and a man who recently told colleagues that he would not meet anybody from Wye to discuss their concerns under any circumstances
  • Dr Hilary Newport, the director of the Kent branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)
  • Charles Findlay, strangely silent member of Kent County Council for Wye

And here are two who have been invited but, we understand, have not yet responded to the invitation:

  • Damian Green, MP for Ashford who was rather slow out of the blocks on the Wye Park scheme but is now making noises about it
  • Ian Cooling, Wye’s borough councillor

Lord Lieutenant

Alan Willett: Lord Lieutenant

What’s all this got to do with the price of executive housing? The lunch, according to the invitations sent, will be a chance for all those connected with the proposals to ‘get to know each other socially’. We do not know whether Mr Willett is doing this as part of his official role or what his views on the project are.

But we do know two things:

  1. Alan Willett recently opined in Kent on Sunday on the need for Kent to embrace new opportunities. This is what he said: ‘We can live in fear of rapid and far-reaching change, or we can draw upon the lessons of our history here in Kent and adopt and adapt these new forces as we have done so many times over the last two millennia. It is all a question of finding the balance between change and continuity. And I have no doubt that with a strong sense of belonging and pride in our great county, Kent’s many varied communities will meet these.’
  2. He is, among other things, the director of a property holding and development company called Arkady which, in March last year, changed its name from Arkady Properties. According to the accounts filed in March last year, Arkady made a loss of £56,374 on a turnover of £18,495.and had assets (in property) of £1,455,462 and investments of £1,479,110.
    Arkady Ltd also increased its share capital twice last year. Firstly, in June from £1,000 to £6million and then, again, in October from £6million to £12million. Mr Willett was also allotted extra shares twice last year: in June, he was allotted £3,523,560 in £1 ordinary shares and in August was allotted a further £1,748,274.

Sittingbourne MP

Derek Wyatt: A big wide vision of Kent’s science parks

We also know that Mr Willett is the father in law of one Derek Wyatt, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who, as keen Kent Connections (subtitled the ‘Brooks Wilson Pinball Machine’) enthusiasts will know, is the only person to have raised Imperial’s proposals in Parliament. Mr Wyatt has been lobbying the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to stop the expansion of the so-called Kent Science Park at Sittingbourne and spoke enthusiastically about the Wye Park in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on March 29. This is what he said:

‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a science enthusiast and has increased science research funding substantially in successive Budgets, but at university level. At the same time, he has ensured that our investment in share option tax breaks are better than those of California. According to last year’s league tables in “The Times Good University Guide”, notwithstanding the usual reservation about league tables, Kent was placed 44th and Greenwich was 94th. However, Kent has one newcomer, which constitutes the most stimulating part of the discussion. It is Imperial college, which is currently in Kensington, but owns Wye College near Ashford.

‘Imperial is ranked third in the UK, after Cambridge and Oxford, but first in technology and science. Although it is a university college of London, it recently announced its determination to become a full-blown university. Imperial is hampered by its location at Kensington, and it could not develop a science park except on its site at Wye.

‘I was the only Member of Parliament who attended the Kent and Medway discussions on science parks in September 2004. Kent county council said then that there was no intention to develop a science park at Ashford. However, late last year it announced a £1 billion science and technology park to be based at Wye college and run by Imperial and Kent county council.

‘I am not sure that one can have two science parks in Kent — one in Sittingbourne and the £1 billion science park. There is simply not enough investment or companies. If I were a young entrepreneur and I had a choice, I would choose Imperial, because of its history, rather than an independent science park.

‘The downgrading of the Kent science park to a technology cluster means that it will be no more than a glorified business park. The Minister should seriously consider asking the Thames gateway to downgrade the Kent science park as a flagship project, because it has been superseded by events at Imperial.

‘Let me state some of the things that the Kent science park wants to do. According to its website yesterday, it wants to increase its floor space to 145,000 sq m. It wants a new £29 million motorway junction and southern relief road to connect the science park to the M2 and A2. It wants approximately 5,000 new dwellings—on top of the 8,000 that my community has already been asked to provide in the next 10 years. It wants a £3 million enhancement to the public transport system as a link to it, through the provision of additional buses and bus routes. We are not sure who will pay for that. It is prepared to put down a £5 million endowment for providing the academic campus but I believe that that, again, that is superseded by Imperial’s intentions.’

It seems a shame that Mr Willett did not think to include his son-in-law, who clearly has strong views about the Wye Park scheme and science parks in general, on the guest list.

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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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9 Responses to Come on chaps, can’t we sort this out over lunch?

  1. Jo says:

    Rubbish. If Wyatt were a young entrepreneur and had a choice, he would choose Imperial because it’s not in his constituency. He must be delighted that an unpopular planning issue is now in someone else’s Tory seat instead of his Labour one.

  2. jack woodford says:

    It may be ‘coincidence ‘or ‘conspiracy’, but prior to the lunch event of the year at Chilham on May 23rd, we are having a lot of pro- Imperial Vision correspondence, either in the local paper, or currently a group calling itself the develop-wye.Last week in the kent messenger a Rosemary Green of Wye wrote a long letter extolling the virtues and benefits of the Imperial College Vision. we now have this new group, accusing members of Wye Parish Council, Wye Futures Group,and just about everybody else in Wye of in-fighting, back stabbing, double dealing, and more….Who we ask is responsible for this poison? If these people or groups are genuine,they are more than welcome to put their point of view, or attend any of the meetings and discussions that occur regularly in Wye….They claim anominity, because of the fear that they will victimised by the residents of Wye…that is just not true, everyone has a point of view, and we would like to hear them.

  3. Kerry Bethel says:

    Mr Willetts is adopting the same tactics as Paul Clokie of resolutely ‘blinkering’ themselves to the views of the residents of Wye or, indeed, any other body of opinion other than that of the signatories to the Concordat.

    What possesses him to want foster a better relationship between the Concordat members is quite beyond me – they have been in close, albeit, covert contact regularly for 2 years or more!

    Perhaps he has been ‘dazzled’ like a rabbit in the headlights by the Imperial PR steam-roller?

    I cannot imagine that Mr Willetts will make the short trip from Chilham to Wye to meet with the PC, WFG and others let alone inviting them for lunch.

    It will be interesting to see whether Mr Findlay – the County Councillor for Wye – will be letting the village know where he stands on the Imperial aspirations. We have been waiting since last December! Not very good is it?

  4. Kerry Bethel says:

    Jack

    The ‘Rosemary Green’ and ‘develop-wye’ malevolent missives were not written under the guise of anonymity through of fear of reprisal but purely because it would be very embarrassing to reveal their true identity.

    To be identified as responsible for resorting to such lamentable tactics would be extremely humiliating and exhibit a fundamental despair and frustration in the strength of their case.

    It is insulting and very hurtful of them to infer that the people of Wye would take retaliatory action against those holding different views.

  5. Cliff Whitbourn says:

    Retaliatory action is a real option come local elections, for those who do not run away.

    For the others? the Pike always struck me as a very suitable option for those who rode too high.

  6. David Hewson says:

    Perhaps you could organise another murder mystery night, Cliff, and make it a little more realistic?

    By the way… we have been provided with a copy of the ‘Rosemary Green’ letter, but I do not intend to print such obvious tripe. Anyone who writes anonymously to a parish council (supposedly) and then complains vociferously that they didn’t get a reply isn’t really worth bothering with.

  7. Simon Allfree says:

    Arkady Limited has invested mainly in commercial timber forests in Scotland and Wales. It never has had, nor does it have any intention now or in the future of investing in any developments connected with Wye College, Ashford, Kent.
    Simon Allfree
    Chief Executive
    Arkady Limited

  8. paul harlow says:

    we in Swale are facing a similar radically increased ‘science park’ in an AONB, the old lanscaped Shell research centre, sold on to a pension fund.it is unlikely to fly as a science park having no real academic links, lack of science tenants in its current size and the proposed site will be many times larger than Cambridge’s. On the back of the proposal it supports a new motor way junction, and ……..oh yes 7000 new homes (think Iwade).
    The use of ‘science park’ is more of a pension fund’s, cynical property developers ploy for a large business park and housing development.
    But surely this is in an AONB? Such a scheme will blight 5 saxon villages not to mention that there is a lack of infrastructure,lack of resources including water, schools etc.

    We are blighted too by the Prescott vision of Thames Gateway. Swale has to create 8k houses…….surely designed to revive the fortunes of the Medway towns and regenerate and provide new employment for these areas ie Chatham and Sittingbourne, but suprisingly floating on this raft of ‘good intention’ the floundering KSP has attached itself and seeks to build massively in AONB.
    Such proposals are not an organic growth and development but imposed, untested central planning, the diametric opposite of the post war “new towns’ towns, this is the export of the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industry into AONB rather than use existing industrial brownsite.
    Kent is now fifth in the league of “The Garden of England” having passed her crown to more powerfully protected ( and industrially burned out and water rich) northern county.
    Kents proximity to Europe is often cited as the reason for all this development but it may just be that we have lousy political representation, a complacent and unashamed County Council and poor local authorities .
    Some critics suggest that the Thames Gateway may harbour some political gerrymongering.
    But Kent must wake up and protest, not simply electorally, but more actively in order to to protect vulnerable and sensitive rural areas, AONB and areas of ecological importance

  9. David Hewson says:

    Thanks for your comments, Paul. I’m sure most people in Wye would sympathise. I sometimes wonder whether this site shouldn’t be renamed save-KENT.org… large parts of this county seem to be seen as prime candidates for asset stripping at the moment.

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