While Wye’s borough councillor Ian Cooling and Imperial College continue to rubbish our report on the secret lunch to discuss Wye Park at Maidstone on May 23, one independent individual attending the event has spoken up… and said we got it right. In this week’s Kent on Sunday, Dr Hilary Newport, director of the Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said ‘she agreed with the save-wye version of what was said’.
Dr Newport criticised Imperial’s plans once again, in the kind of terms one might expect of a local council official representing a threatened community. ‘They seem absolutely adamant that they have to take this all or nothing approach and we’re unhappy about that. They said that if they are going to invest in this research centre in Wye it simply has to be accompanied by this development.
‘I am sure there’s a middle way where Wye can benefit without losing part of the countryside around it.’
Yet Imperial is still denying that its rector, Professor Sir Richard Sykes, told the meeting that it would not seek government or European funding for the project because it would lead to a loss of control. ‘Imperial has always said it will seek funding and will continue to explore doing so,’ the college told the paper.
Ashford’s council leader, Paul Clokie, had a slightly different recollection though. He told the paper, ‘Broadly, I think the feeling was he doesn’t want to go around the world cap in hand. Other agencies are prepared to do that for him. The only comment I remember him saying is he didn’t want to go around personally asking lots of individuals who may or may not make promises and find halfway through the project that the funding wasn’t there. My impression was that others were prepared to do that work for him.’
Ben Moorhead, chairman of Wye Future Group, told KoS, ‘It’s always been my understanding that Imperial want to control the project and the science park and that is the reason why they are adamant they need to sell up to 400 acres of AONB to raise between £300 million and £400 million which would pay for their share — a third of the science park.’