Why this ‘pantomime’ will close on Monday

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.


About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome, Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, adaptions of the Sarah Lund stories in Copenhagen, and versions of Shakespeare worked for Audible.
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11 Responses to Why this ‘pantomime’ will close on Monday

  1. Kerry Bethel says:

    A clearing house for different opinions can only achieve its originating intent if different views do actually exist. Since save-wye started it has become blindingly obvious to all but those who for whatever purpose choose to ignore or misrepresent the facts, that a massive majority in the parish and beyond support a YES BROWN NO GREEN policy.

    Save-wye has actively encouraged opposing views to be expressed as has Wye Parish Council but if these views are virtually or wholly non-existent then the ageless axiom “you can’t get blood out of a stone” is so true.

    I wholeheartedly welcome s-w’s new mission statement.

  2. M Sorken says:

    The gloves are off, thank you save-wye for your continued hard work, I look forward to your new site.

    I have and idea that I would like to share with other readers and contributor. Would it be feasible to design a flag representing those opposed to massive development in Wye and then distribute them to homes in the parish?

    If these flags start flying all over the village it would certainly send a clear message, more fun than say a petition and it will surely raise awareness and generate interest towards our cause.

    Literature from save-wye.org would accompany the flags.

    Marlon Sorken
    Olantigh Farm House

  3. Dave Hayes says:

    Is this cllr Cooling the same person who brought questions to bear on the running of the parish council a few years back? Unfortunately he appears to be failing to contribute anything positive to either parties in this issue. The ability to bob about like a tennis ball from one side to another impresses no one. When are the next elections?

  4. Cliff Whitbourn says:

    If you sit on a fence for too long you will fall off.

    It would appear that both our elected Borough and County officials have fallen into the Imperial nettle bed.

    Some respect for either might be restored by an honest declaration.

  5. Ali Poole says:

    I’ve only just started to receive these updates and simply want to say that I am very glad that the site will continue to ‘Seek to be the first and most reliable source of news and information on the future of Wye’. I am also very grateful to all those who are obviously expending vast amounts of their time and energy in providing this excellent service for the rest of us. Thank you!

  6. Jack Woodford says:

    As I have asked many times, for those various people who are in favour of the Imperial College Project to come forward and identify themselves, this is a last call for that group…if they are out there, and reading this website, please make contact before 6.00 pm tonight, as this concerned resident will be meeting the Deputy Rector, his management team, and other Imperial College personnel, to hopefully hear the finalised plans for this huge project…it is still not to late to put your side of the argument…if one exists! I guess you know where you can contact me, and other members of Wye Parish Council, WFG, et al,

  7. Simon Webster says:

    Paraphrasing George Orwell,

    “brown field good, green field bad,”

    and I have yet to find anyone locally who thinks otherwise. If our elected representatives truly believe that those they represent think otherwise then they must be living on another planet…

    I have envied and admired your sources of information for some time. Keep up the good work!

  8. Jack Woodford says:

    Just a brief comment on the latest meeting with the Master Planners which took place on Monday evening….very little new! A very charming American Gentleman from SOM showed us some very impressive slides, from previous developments at Stanford, Berkley, Harvard, and other US Universities, all High Tech Buildings, and Landscaped Sites…very American in lots of green space, and wide vistas…unfortunately they seem to have forgotten,they are now dealing with a little English Village, with restricted access…small roads, lots of Hedges, Fields, People and Houses everywhere! It just will not work here, apart from Building on ANOB Land, the whole concept of large scale develpment in this crowded Island, is a non starter…As several people from the audience remarked, we have a ‘large scale development’ already in place at Eureka Park.

  9. Seb Barlow says:

    I am a Kentish native (albeit an expatriated one) having lived in the Wye area for most of my life. Imperial College’s plans to turn one of Kent’s most picturesque villages into a “small town” disturb me almost as much as Cllr Cooling’s apparent support for the project: indeed, the haughty disregard he appears to hold for his constituents absolutely beggars belief!

    To suggest that Wye’s “Green Fields” are better suited for a major development of this nature over so many of Kent’s existing “Small Towns”, which have a surplus of “Brown Field” sites crying out for redevelopment, shows a clear intellectual and ethical bankruptcy that is surprising even when it comes from an elected official. I completely fail to understand what the point is for “protecting” Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty if these areas can’t be “protected” from the likes of Cllr Cooling and the commercial interests he prefers to represent over those of the people who live in the area, the very people who put him into office.

  10. j scarlett says:

    I am sad at the news of looseing ‘Save-wye’ most of your articles have been excellent and often entertaining.

    I wish you every success with your new venture and hope it awakens more of our neighbours and influential characters nationally & internationaly to the possible horrors that Imperial plan for our village & countryside.
    While we are unsupported by our ‘elected’ councillors and with the ‘powers that be’ disregarding basic principles of ‘democracy’, some of us value greatly your efforts on the Wye Cause.

  11. Justin Williams says:

    I think that J Scarlett has rather misread our revamp

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