Imperial College’s first tentative plans of its Wye Park proposal would virtually double the built-up area of the village even before a single acre is lost to speculative housing development.
The plans — put together by masterplanners Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and reproduced here — show the Wye Park scheme bringing buildings up to the foot of the North Downs at Coldharbour Farm and Little Olantigh Road. But although zones for housing are shown on the plans, the development is to service the research and commercial science parks and is not the speculative housing development Imperial insists it needs to finance its vision, raising the spectre of further hundreds of acres disappearing underneath housing estates towards Brook.
The two options both show the siting of the main research institute consisting of four, three-storey buildings of 6,000sq m each. One has the buildings on either side of Olantigh Road behind the historic Wye College quad on the site of the laboratory buildings, Kempe Centre and glass houses. The other plans has the enormous buildings on either side of Scotton Street at Withersdane.
Both plans show possible areas for the commercial science park and related housing for the scientists and support staff that Imperial hopes will live on site. They also show 1.2 hectares (five acres) of car parking to cater for up to 300 cars. SOM’s masterplanner, Dan Ringelstein, told this week’s community workshop that these car parks might be on two levels with one deck underground — raising the possibility of up to 4,000 lorry loads of spoil having to be removed from the site before construction work starts.
The plans also show some new infrastructure with spurs being built to the science parks from Olantigh Road and from Oxenturn Lane although Mr Ringelstein said that he did not know whether any road improvements would be possible before demolition and construction starts.
You can see save-wye.org’s reproduction of the two options below. We asked Imperial to allow us to reproduce the original slides but the college refused to provide them. Sebastian Hanley, of Tamesis PR who chaired the latest workshop, said: ‘We are not making the slides you referred to publicly available as it is clearly still work in progress. The aim of the consultation workshops is to take account of local views during the masterplanning process, so any information produced is subject to change.
‘Out of context and without the accompanying presentation, the slides only illustrate the five hectare development area that is Imperial’s brief for the Research Centre. As you know, it is not the intention to build on all of this area and SOM’s presentation included some of the options of how buildings could be configured within this space. As a result slides showing just the five hectares could be misleading.
‘As you are also aware, the scope and scale of the research park and supporting housing is also not yet known, so it is currently impossible to speculate on the overall size of the proposals.’
He added: ‘As agreed at the workshop, we will be producing a note of the meeting that will include information on the presentation in due course. The objective is to be clear and transparent in our communications with the local community. I would suggest that rather than trying to recreate drawings you wait until that is available.
‘Save-wye is not, by its own admission, a non-partisan website and so it would be unlikely that we would seek to publish original material on it. We are not trying to ‘cloud the issue’ as you suggest, but instead providing reliable information on the project. Given Save-wye’s position this would not be achievable through that particular website.’
Both plans have 6,000 sq m of green houses and a substantial open space within the research institute and Mr Ringelstein said that the buildings would cover a smaller area than that suggested by Imperial at the January 9 public meeting.Construction, Mr Ringelstein said, would be staggered in three-year increments across more than 10 years. It was, he added, a ’20 to 25-year plan’. A planning application would not be put forward before this time next year at the earliest.Mr Ringelstein admitted that the project was running behind schedule and that no information on the housing or the commercial science park would be available before August. No date has been set for the next workshop.
Both images produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.