Confused, ill-informed and hopelessly compromised by his signing of the original Concordat, Ashford Borough Council’s leader Paul Clokie is increasingly beginning to look like a man stranded on a desert island shouting for attention from anyone unlucky enough to come within earshot. Today he is quoted in the Kentish Express rubbishing this website — without the slightest ammunition — and fervently hoping that his beloved Wye Park will still be rescued by some unknown white knight willing to throw good money after bad.
But this is the man who has given us such other dead white elephants as the Discovery Centre, and put the entire Ashford planning process in jeopardy by secretly signing up to back Imperial College’s plans to railroad through existing planning conventions, thereby destroying any hope of impartiality the authority might have over Wye Park. Do you expect anything else?
For the record let us look at what the great man says and try (this isn’t easy but we will have a go) to offer some kind of textual analysis. Today’s KE carries an entirely thorough and accurate report of the doubts surrounding the future of Wye Park following Justin Williams’ story last week revealing the project is on the morgue table awaiting an official death certificate which will probably not be issued until September. The college’s PR bunnies are saying little themselves, except to issue bland statements that a decision has not been made, and studiously refraining from denying the details of the original report.
Clokie, Imperial’s man in Ashford, feels no such qualms however.
Let’s take these points one by one…
I think they have put five and five together and come up with 30.
Given that Cllr Clokie was a staunch defender of the Discovery Centre (original planned cost £13m, abandoned at an unknown expense to the ratepayer because the real cost would have been much higher) one wonders at his qualifications to lecture anyone on arithmetic.
We have been in touch with Imperial and as far as they are concerned it makes no difference to them at all.
‘It’, presumably, being our story. Which, I repeat, they have not denied. Did Cllr Clokie ask about details? And how much real work was now going on with regard to the project, particularly the shelving of environmental investigations which, as a local council leader, presumably ought to interest him? Apparently not…
As far as I am aware Imperial are not dependent on any one sponsor, there is an awful lot of money around.
Read the story. BP wants to set up a major £275 million centre for biofuels research and has ruled out Wye as a location. Biofuels are supposed to be one of the key elements of Wye Park. How many biofuels centres does Cllr Clokie expect to see in the UK? And if, as he says, ‘there is an awful lot of money around’ why do Imperial insist they have to sell off 300 to 400 acres of protected countryside for commercial housing development to raise essential funds to pay for Wye Park?
Households in Ashford will have 12,500 jobs and that is what people need to bear in mind.
No they won’t. This is just one more pie in the sky estimate among all the other PR fluff Imperial and its craven council lackeys have thrown around like cheap confetti. And if Cllr Clokie wants those jobs why doesn’t he just suggest Imperial create them on all that unsold commercial space already zoned for development in and around his failing boom town?
The truth is that there are troubled times ahead for both Imperial, as it seeks some way out of the mess it has created, and the councillors who secretly backed their madcap plans without whispering a word to their electorate. There are, we promise, many more revelations to come in this story, and not just from us. Cllr Peter Davison, leader of the Independents on ABC, and a man whose efforts to cast light on the Concordat have made him a target for the ruling Tory group’s ire, has asked for a full report on how much this white elephant has cost borough tax payers. Cllr Clokie’s response? He won’t say. After all, whose money is it anyway? Clearly, he believes it’s his.
And now the Kentish Express, which originally took a very meek and tame view of the Wye Park fiasco, is fast realising there is a major local scandal in the making here. The story doesn’t just make a page lead but also warrants a great editorial too, one that will make uncomfortable reading for Ashford’s beleaguered leader the year before local elections.
In a blistering leader, the paper says, ‘If the truth is out there, it has got to the stage where nobody will believe it even if it is staring them right in the face. The shame of all this is that while the people of Wye keep a constant watch over their shoulders, the wider debate on whether the scheme would benefit or blight Ashford as a whole has not been given the chance to flourish. Questions are starting to be asked in the council chamber. About time too.’
The debate, of course, never started because people like Paul Clokie held it behind closed doors and came to a decision long before anyone else knew about it. A reckoning is surely on the way. If he would like an alternative career after local government, here is our suggestion. Clokie the Clown has a ring to it, and there’s always room in the market for a children’s entertainer who can raise a quick and ridiculous belly laugh. Plus Cllr Clokie lives in Tenterden, about as far away from Wye as you can get in the Ashford council boundaries. Perhaps people will be a little more understanding over there.