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.’
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…