If it’s land you’re looking for, it’s here already…

Land

Ninety six acres up for grabs at Eureka alone…

It’s all about that precious, scarce commodity land really, isn’t it? After all, if we were surrounded by suitable, available space ready made and zoned for development, a nice, caring educational establishment like Imperial College wouldn’t want to concrete over an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would they?

Well, not unless they simply wanted the filthy lucre alone. The problem with the land scarcity argument though is this: it’s rubbish, and you can prove so yourself very easily, right now. Here’s how…

Above you will see an aerial shot of the Eureka development (the one once labelled a science park). It was begun by Trinity College, Cambridge, and, when the boffins failed to arrive, brought us such wonders as the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, a nice new cinema and a Travelodge. Next to glories like that, who needs science?

campus.jpg

The new owners of Eureka have even thoughtfully named one of the new buildings a ‘campus’. What better place for a scientific research community?

Eureka is wonderfully located though, right next to the M20, with easy links into central Ashford, and no need of new roads or any incursion into protected countryside. And, though you wouldn’t guess this from the hawkish property magnate noises coming from Imperial, their existing rival business park down the road is positively awash with empty space. As many as 96 acres of it if you’re interested. That not enough? Head off elsewhere to the Waterbrook Park on the edge of Ashford. That has an astonishing 114 empty acres looking for customers, freehold or leasehold. In fact, so replete is Ashford with unfilled commercial space, you’d think anyone with a couple of quid in their pocket could pick up stacks at very low prices… not the ones Imperial would hope to charge.

How do we know this? It’s dead easy. Just head off to Locate in Kent, give your surname and an e-mail address to their property register system, and browse the stacks and stacks of land around Ashford that is sitting there begging for owners, like plaintive unwanted puppies crying in a pet shop window.

Every industrial estate we’ve ever heard of — Henwood, Eureka, Orbital Park and Waterbrook — is trying to flog sizable amounts of land at the moment. If it all went it one go, you wonder where all the people, houses and jobs are going to come from. In fact, Damian Green MP was wondering this himself recently in one of his rare comments on Wye Park, potentially the biggest commercial development to hit his constituency during his time here.

It occurred to Mr Green that, if the funding were available without Imperial having to sell AONB land to raise money, it might well make sense for the research park development to be based nearer to Ashford, presumably on the readily available open acres crying out for customers right now. That is a persuasive argument. So perhaps Imperial could answer this question…

If there is readily available land for commercial development in Ashford now, better sited, and better served in terms of infrastructure, than Wye, what possible reason can there be for developing AONB land instead?

And here’s one for anyone thinking of putting money into this madcap venture in grandiose academic property development…

If these huge chunks of land are going unsold for years on end, what possible reason do you have to think you will end up flogging yours? Even to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Travelodge?

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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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One Response to If it’s land you’re looking for, it’s here already…

  1. J Arthur says:

    It is known that Mr Damian Green or one of his staff regularly study the save-wye pages and will, therefore, see your article and the overwhelming facts that it presents for other wholly more suitable ‘science park’and ‘support housing’ sites than despoiling a large tract of beautiful AONB protected land around Wye.

    Perhaps he will post his response on save-wye as a matter of public interest.

    Or there again pigs might fly………….

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