I started save-wye.org in January with the naive hope that it would be a focus for different opinions and a forum for reasoned comment about the very real threat to Wye from Imperial College’s Wye Park proposals. Sadly, that idea has proved a failure. While the readership of this site has grown from strength to strength and recently passed the 25,000 mark, we have failed to find contributors who bring different opinions to the debate, and the coverage we have carried has fallen very much on the shoulders of Justin and myself, and the busy army of supporters and researchers who have burrowed out material for us.
Our original intention of providing a central clearing house for different opinions on the controversial Wye Park project has proved mistaken and lately we have come under considerable whispering criticism, led by Wye’s own borough councillor, for negativity and ‘inaccuracy’ (by which he seems to mean carrying articles with which he disagrees). For this reason, save-wye as you see it will cease to exist on Monday.
Ian Cooling, in one of his many diatribes against this site, wondered here (we have printed an awful lot of his opinions and gave him his own logon to write them) whether we asked ourselves why no alternative opinions came forward. The implication was, I imagine, that people are somehow afraid to express an opinion in support of Imperial College. In an earlier posting he quoted an anonymous villager as saying he feared he might ‘get a brick through the window’ if he did so, which I frankly find hard to take seriously, and think is an outrageous slur against the village he represents.
We have come to a different conclusion for this lack of ‘balance’. The reason no-one is standing up to support Imperial — Cllr Cooling apart — is that no-one in the village wants the very bad part of what is on offer. While there is widespread support for a renewal of the existing college and the decrepit buildings which have been allowed to rot under Imperial’s reign, there is absolutely zero backing for turning over the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to commercial development or allowing Imperial to line its coffers by transforming Wye, in its own words, into ‘a small town’.
There may be those who, for their own reasons, wish to portray this as a minority view. They have their heads in the sand. Wye Future Group has 230 members; two very well known and respected villagers put their names to the ‘no incursion into the AONB’ position here only yesterday. You have to be blind or very, very biased to think this is the ‘tiny minority’ some people would have us believe.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the original vision for save-wye is redundant. We have asked for alternative views until we are blue in the face; they’re not coming in because they simply aren’t out there. It is futile sticking to our original remit, which you still find on the right, ‘This is a non-partisan website designed to encourage discussion and the sharing of information about plans to bring new development to Wye, Kent.’
In truth, this is now working against us, because it allows someone like Ian Cooling to badmouth our efforts in private then come on here to try to do it all again under our own banner. On Thursday night he was telling the Parish Council, save-wye ‘reads like the script of a Christmas pantomime’. The following day he attempted to post a stream of comments on this site, two of which we deemed unacceptable. One accused us of allowing a correspondent to post under a false name, in spite of our new rules (the truth is that M. Sorken is a real person, in fact, one of his own constituents). The second tried, once again, to rubbish a report on the fact that the UN do not wish to fund Imperial. Cllr Cooling wished to argue with this on the grounds that it was possible ‘(no more)’ that they might after all. It is possible ‘no more’ that Elvis will be found working behind the bar of the Tickled Trout. We are, frankly, bored with dealing with this constant tide of unsubtle propaganda aimed at discrediting the work done here without ever coming to a specific point.
We tried, but save-wye as a forum has failed. For that reason, this site in its present form will disappear on Monday, and be replaced by one which maintains the previous content but has a new ‘mission statement’, one which we hope is clear and unmistakable. From Monday the job of this site is to…
- Oppose all attempts to turn over any part of the AONB to commercial development
- Call for this huge project, one which would change an entire community forever, to be discussed fully in public, not negotiated away in secret lunches between chums
- Examine and question fully and publicly, and open up to debate, every statement and proposal issued by Imperial, local authorities and councillors
- Seek to be the first and most reliable source of news and information on the future of Wye
We do not aim to represent the village. We wish Wye Parish Council and Wye Future Group well in their praiseworthy efforts. We are a news and comment service and a place where people can raise questions, comment on what they see here, and hopefully go away better informed. That said, we think we are somewhat closer to the majority of opinion in the Wye area over this issue than certain public representatives, judging by the constant messages of support and even money we receive constantly.
As to the ‘other side’… if this is a pantomime, one can’t help but wonder where Cllr Cooling will find someone to be the front half of his horse.