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.
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.’