Imperial: We’ll remove that illegal sign

Imperial is to remove five signs — including its 8ft white sign outside the main Wye College building — after admitting that it never sought permission to put them up.

The college says that the sign was put up to replace an existing one and that its planning consultant — Gerald Eve, which is also its main consultant on the Wye Park proposals — has written to Ashford Borough Council seeking guidance on whether planning permission is required. According to a statement released by Imperial, this is ‘normal practice’ to seek guidance before submitting a ‘potentially unnecessary planning application’ despite the building being Grade I listed and it being within a conservation area. ‘We recognise that, in this case, guidance should have been sought earlier and will be taking down this sign.’

Imperial also says that it had to cut down one of the legally-protected lime trees behind the Old Rectory because it was rotten and a danger to public safety. It says that it has explained this to Ashford council and will plant two new trees in its place.

Wye College frontage

Coming down: The controversial sign

The statement by Imperial: ‘The new signs, together with publication of new maps for each campus, are intended to improve access for students, staff and visitors with disabilities. They are also intended to improve navigation generally for visitors and to reflect changing usage of buildings across the College. The new signs are intended to bring the College’s wayfinding signage into compliance with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

‘The sign at the front of the Wye campus replaced an existing sign in the same location, and the College’s planners, Gerald Eve, have written to ABC seeking informal guidance as to whether the replacement sign is likely to require a planning application. It is normal practice to seek informal guidance from a council in this manner rather than submitting a potentially unnecessary planning application. We recognise that in this case guidance should have been sought earlier and will be taking down this sign while this guidance is sought.

‘The College already holds advertisement consent from 2000 for various signs on the Wye campus. When installing the new signage at the Wye campus, the College sought the local authority’s view (17 March) on the style and design of three signs at other campus locations. After hearing the local authority’s concern over the proposed size of a new sign outside the Kempe Centre, the College decided not to proceed with this sign. ABC has not yet responded regarding signs at two locations on a Listed building (Bexley house, opposite the main entrance), and the College made contact with them yesterday regarding their response.

‘The College will also write to ABC by the end of this week asking for their view on the style and design of four other signs that have recently been installed (outside the Kempe Centre and outside the Russell Laboratories). These signs will also be taken down as soon as possible while this guidance is being sought.

‘On the issue of the lime tree, this was looked at when the trees were being pollarded. The tree was very rotten at the bottom and was considered dangerous, so it was felled. Although we recognise that five days’ notice to the local authority is normally required, because the weight was all at the top of the tree we considered it could fall on a vehicle or pedestrian, so decided that it should come down in the interest of public safety. We have explained this to the local authority and have said that we will plant two new trees in the Autumn as it is fairly late in the season to source and plant them now.’

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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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5 Responses to Imperial: We’ll remove that illegal sign

  1. Ian Cooling says:

    By my reckoning, there are at least double this figure of five signs that breach planning legislation. I shall be interested to know which are the five that have been selected.

    The claim that one sign has replaced another, is irrelevant when the new sign is so obtrusively different to the one it replaced, as in the photo accompanying this piece.

    Also, none of the signs I have looked at are the same size as those they replaced. When such new signs are fixed to the walls of listed buildings, another set of holes is drilled in the listed brickwork, adding those routes for damp penetration to the existing holes.

    And let’s not forget that the Cloister Quad is not only a listed building, it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and, yep, there’s a hideous new sign there as well.

  2. Gertrude says:

    Stable doors and horses….?

  3. Ian Cooling says:

    Thanks Gertrude (go on, be brave, let us know who you are!),

    But, I think you are only partly right. There is more than one door on this particular stable. What I do not want to see is the signs removed, a restrospective planning application submitted and approved – and then they pop up again.

    This morning I spoke with officers at ABC about this and we have agreed a procedure whereby each new sign of questionable legality will be dealt with individually. This will make sure that no blanket application can succeed.

  4. J.Lo says:

    Yes Gertrude, they stopped us having a few horses in the village which is part of our countryside activity on the basis that they would cause undue conjestion in the village? lets have 12,000 more cars instead.

  5. R.Bartley says:

    J.Lo presumably you are referring to Wye Court Farm.

    As reported recently in the parish magazine, the owner of Wye Court Farm appealed against the refusal by Ashford Borough Council to grant planning permission for 23 boxes for DIY livery and two outdoor maneges.

    This controversial application had generated over fifty letters of objection and support since 2002. The case was heard by a planning inspector in January 2006, who has since dismissed the applicant’s appeal. The following is an abstract from the inspector’s report:

    “Conclusions

    19. The scale of the proposed re-use of buildings would cause harm to the natural beauty of the countryside and the maneges and associated works and parking would erode the rural setting of the village and represent an encroachment of activity and development into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As a result, there would be a detrimental effect impact on the setting of a listed building. Whilst I do not consider the nature of the traffic would be likely to significantly or unreasonably affect the living conditions of the occupiers of a neighbouring dwelling in the terms of the Local Plan policies, this nevertheless does add some weight to my conclusion that the overall proposal is of too large a scale with regards to Development Plan policies and national planning guidance previously identified.

    20. For the reasons given above and having regard to all other matters raised, I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.“

    Please draw your own conclusions from the inspector’s decision. You can read it here.

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