Damian Green finally comes out fighting

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Ashford’s MP hits out at Imperial’s lack of facts and consultation on Wye

Any doubts about the position of Ashford MP Damian Green over Wye Park can be cast aside. After months of mutterings of discontent behind the scene, Mr Green has weighed in with a highly public blast of criticism aimed at Imperial’s poor communication skills and fumbling with the numbers.

What’s more, he has openly suggested the college ought to be looking at alternative ways of funding the entire project, ones that don’t involve building on the AONB, an idea the college appears to have dismissed out of hand.

‘It is very frustrating not to have such basic information at this stage of this process,’ he tells today’s Kent on Sunday. ‘Where does this £1 billion figure come from? Where does the £400 million figure come from? And is building on the AONB the only way to raise the money. These are all basic questions that have not been addressed, let alone answered.’

You wonder how bad things must have become between this senior Tory MP and Imperial for him to go public with his criticisms. So far his comments on Wye have been muted, and merely tinged with some mild rebuke for the way the college has behaved. But no more…

In the interview Mr Green suggests…

  • If the science park really is of international significance the European Union should be approached for funding, rather than selling off protected countryside
  • Imperial College ought to consider a bank loan to get the project off the ground too.

But he reserves his most outright words of criticism for the way Imperial has played fast and loose with what facts it has released, and the manner in which it has treated the residents of Wye.

‘I have had no detailed financial information to justify the idea that you need large scale development on an AONB to fund the project. Until I and others see the financial plans we are trying to operate in a vacuum.

‘I continue to believe that they have not been effective in communicating with the people of Wye. Perhaps Imperial College genuinely does not think they need to explain simply because of who they are.’

Ouch!

In response, Imperial has resorted to its customary high level brand of professional public relations. You know the style by now; the words are recognisable, but strung together in such a way all conventional meaning fast disappears. When asked about Mr Green’s comments the college referred the paper to notes from the last public meeting in January, then added, ‘We explained that issues over acreage, housing and land development could not be addressed because, at this stage of the project’s development, Imperial does not yet know.’

The college also insisted it has a ‘comprehensive communications programme’, which presumably means the website, which has scarcely been updated in weeks, and press-ganging Wye students to shove leaflets through the doors of half the village.

The most priceless part, though, came when KoS asked whether building on the AONB was the only way to raise the extra funds. The paper reports, ‘The spokesman said it was ICL’s “primary determination” to take responsibility for the community and to give it best opportunity to develop in the future, and that this proposal was the best way of doing so.’

Translations in our comments field below, please. Our interpretation for this highly public blast from Mr Green is simple: Imperial has very visibly lost the support and confidence of an influential Tory MP who is keen on seeing a revival of Wye’s academic community but has lost patience with the secret shenanigans the college is playing to get its way. We welcome him to the club.

For David Brooks Wilson, the new Wye Park supremo, and his boss Richard Sykes, the news just gets worse by the week…

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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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8 Responses to Damian Green finally comes out fighting

  1. Paul Hemsley says:

    Early days maybe – somewhat muted still – but at last a senior politician who’s not simply waiting to see how his bread is buttered.
    Maybe, shock horror,Mr.Findlay will finally grasp the mettle & start supporting those who elected him.
    Keep up the pressure & the good work.
    Paul

  2. Kerry Bethel says:

    In the past I have expressed frustration that Mr Green appeared to be sitting on the fence.

    Not any more. I welcome his strident views on both Imperial’s almost non-existent communication skills and on calling into question the necessity of using enabling development on AONB land to raise the funding for a sensitive redevelopment of its brownfield sites. There are many ways to raise the ante without involving plundering an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    If International Agencies, Government Bodies, Banks, Commercial and Private investors cannot make this research proposal stack up financially then it should not fall the the people of this area and beyond to have to sacrifice a cherished nation asset of beautiful and supposedly protected countryside to fund a shaky financial venture.

    At last we have got a major political figure prepared to speak his mind. Well done Mr Green and may it continue.

  3. G West says:

    Like Paul Hemsley many would love to see Charles Findlay put his head above the parapet behind which he has been cowering and start sticking up for the majority view of his electorate.

    If he doesn’t then one presumes he has lost all interest in those he should be representing and will not be offering himself for re-election.

    In fact democracy would be better served if he resigned now and allowed somebody else to fight our cause.

  4. Jo says:

    “it was ICL’s “primary determination” to take responsibility for the community” – ? ? ?

    On what basis does Imperial think it should be “responsible for” the community? Who voted for them in the last elections?

  5. Sarah says:

    Perhaps they mean that their prime concern is to act responsibly for the benefit of the community of Wye?… or then again…

  6. David Hewson says:

    Whenever I encounter this kind of odd verbiage from Imperial I try searching for it on Google. “Primary determination” appears to have a specific meaning in scientific circles…
    Click here

    What’s wrong with plain old English…

  7. John Walters says:

    Its good to see Damien Green taking a clear stance at last but I think you are being a little harsh on Imperial.
    Its clear to me from their statement to KoS recently that they really do care about we Wye folk; because we are not very bright (Sir Les recognized that when he spoke down at us in January), they want to take responsibility for our future well-being. I really do think we should be a little more appreciative of their concerns for us rather than always being on the attcack.

  8. Develop Wye, why not? says:

    I sense a wobble here as someone previously stated rather than a shift. Politicians are allowed (and often do) change their minds and I would like to See D.Green state catergorically that he completely opposes development of housing estates and industrial/science parks on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I simply see a lot of words that are rather meaningless. D. Green should take a stand, get off the fence and ask your fellow Conservatives in this area to do the same or you may be handing this area to the Independents and the Greens at the next election.

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