There is a growing tide of excellent journalism in the mainstream media about Imperial College’s controversial property development ambitions, and today we’re delighted to point you to one of the most thoroughly detailed articles to appear so far. You can find it in London Student, the newspaper of the University of London, the umbrella organisation Imperial is determined to quit, and it is essential reading for anyone looking to get up to speed on the Wye situation.
LS’s news editor Chaminda Jayanetti has spent weeks interviewing many of the key players in the saga, including Deputy Rector Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, and you can see his journalistic conclusion from the opening paragraph, ‘Imperial College’s attempts to win support for its £1billion research park in rural Kent have descended into farce after a senior manager admitted it was inevitable that the college would make inconsistent statements about the project.’
This stems from an astonishing sequence of events during the research for the article in which Prof Borys managed to contradict himself several times over figures and whether the project included manufacturing, finally resorting to a philosophical argument in which he states, ‘it will always be possible to compare and contrast statements made over periods of time and find inconsistencies.’ Yes, we’d gathered that…
Ashford Independent leader Peter Davison says 80 per cent of residents are ‘appalled’
Wye Future Group’s Ben Moorhead is quoted as saying, ‘Imperial have come across as secretive and arrogant. They have made no effort to engage with local concerns.’ Peter Davison, leader of Ashford Independents, told the newspaper, ’80 percent of residents are appalled. Ashford Independents are not against regeneration of Wye, but we are opposed to the bullyboy tactics, and the Eureka science park near Ashford is a better site than a little village like Wye.’
Nick Johanssen, who is responsible for protecting the Kent Downs AONB, says, ‘This is an important point about what appears to be a proposal for enabling development for a major development, and we think that could be a precedent-setting proposal. And that obviously is a concern from the point of view of AONBs.’
And Mike Taylor, head of the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, casts doubt on Ashford council leader Paul Clokie’s signing of the Concordat in the first place. ‘That’s very intriguing and odd. That means he can’t be part of the planning decision because he’s taken a public position on it, and that would be illegal. If you’re a member of a local authority and you’re involved in any planning decisions, you’re not legally allowed to have any public position on that development until after the planning decision has been taken, or you have to declare an interest and withdraw from the planning decision.
‘That is quite a standard requirement and several local authority members have been disqualified from standing as councillors as they have infringed that rule. One fellow actually went to prison, so it’s not a light thing. If the leader of Ashford Council has already come out in support of this, he should automatically disqualify himself from having any role in the decision. You could argue that it’s going to be very difficult for any of them to prove they’re impartial. They are meant to go into that decision-making process with no fixed views.’
But one person who didn’t want to co-operate with the article was Cllr Clokie himself. When LS’s assiduous news editor called to ask for his views, the leader of Ashford Council said, ‘I don’t think that I fully accept your credentials and I’m not prepared to talk to you on the subject. Bye.’
And then he hung up.