The Kent development rift gets bigger


On Thursday Ashford Borough Council leader Paul Clokie was rubbishing the suggestion of architect Sir Terry Farrell that the government abandon huge development in places like Ashford and focus instead on developing unused land closer to London in the Thames Gateway. ‘Silly’, said Cllr Clokie. Today it doesn’t look so silly at all to his far more senior counterpart at Kent County Council, the leader Paul Carter, who has told the Kent on Sunday he agrees with Sir Terry.

Where exactly that leaves ABC and KCC as joint partners in the stumbling Concordat with Imperial over Wye Park is anyone’s guess. KCC and Paul Carter have been remarkably silent of late on the whole thing. But Cllr Carter’s remarks sound utterly incompatible with the original Concordat idea.

He told KoS, ‘There’s an enormous number of brownfield sites in the City of London airport, across to Dartford and I’d very much support the use of brownfield land before we encroach on greenfield.’ Which makes Wye Park look a non-starter if he means what he says.

As always, Paul Carter qualified his views somewhat, stopping short of calling for housing proposals in Kent to be scrapped. ‘Some of our towns could benefit from limited growth. We’re still going to have to accept housing growth, but let’s get it to the right level and maximise the opportunities in outer London. Obviously, Dartford and the Thames Gateway part of Kent is important to us and I think there’s room for all of that to take place, but we don’t want to go over the top until we’ve made sure that brownfield development takes priority.’

It’s very difficult to see where thousands of houses that aren’t just on greenfield land but AONB land too fit into that kind of perspective, or how the original Concordat, which envisaged turning Wye into a small town equivalent of Oxford, could be described as ‘limited growth’.

Interestingly, Ashford’s usually reticent MP Damian Green is quoted in the same issue trying to scotch our report that the original Wye Park project is on the skids. In a quote reminiscent of Cllr Clokie, he says people are ‘putting two and two together and making 14’ since Imperial’s hazy comments, which have stopped short of a denial, says the college ‘remains committed to exploring the scientific vision for Wye’.

Let’s be clear about this. The grand plan for thousands of houses and a huge commercial development is stiff on the table. But Imperial remains the primary landowner of the Wye area and desperate to get some return on its property. While it is privately realising that wholesale destruction of the AONB is not something it will get away with, the college is investigating smaller scale development in the village, which may well involve flogging off properties to be part of some kind of science ‘cluster’.

Effectively it has one already with some of the companies that now rent Imperial property after being spun out of the old Wye college as commercial concerns. This is an entirely different level of project, one which save-wye will follow and attempt to clarify as it progresses. It would be helpful if public representatives did their electorate a favour by calling on Imperial to make its position clear, instead of sitting back and accepting the fog of indecision which Sir Richard Sykes and his acolytes are happy to allow to hang over the village for as long as it suits them.


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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6 Responses to The Kent development rift gets bigger

  1. Justin Williams says:

    Damian Green has received the same Brooks Wilson treatment as Pete Raine, Lord Bruce Lockhart and Paul Clokie in the last few days – meetings and reassurances about how the Masterplan process is continuing and that Imperial is committed to its ‘scientific vision’ for Wye. I’m sorry that our representatives have been taken in by this utterly cynical ploy.
    Let’s examine the facts here:
    FACT – The Imperial College management board agreed to complete the Masterplan on June 12 and then put the project into cold storage. There will not be a planning application this year or next year. The project as billed by Damian, Pete Raine, Clokie et al is dead.
    FACT – Only SOM, Tamesis PR and Ernst & Young are still engaged. Waterman, Gillespies, SDG, Bell and Pottinger and Gerald Eve have all been pulled off. There is nobody working on transport, nobody working on habitats, nobody working on utilities, nobody to make representations on the LDF, nobody to lobby government.
    FACT – Nobody is willing to fund the research institute, there are no sponsors and no government money. BP’s institute will go to South Kensington.
    FACT – The deception over the rundown of the project is following a pattern laid down in April when Imperial started to lose heart and Sykes mind started to wander onto other grandiose legacies. It is being driven by one imperative: the LDF. As Imperial seeks an out, maintaining the deception of the vision is paramount because it must get the Wye Campus redevelopment into the core strategy to maintain its value for flogging off parts to developers. To that end, Ashford must be convinced that the 12,500 jobs are still coming, otherwise Wye will be removed from the LDF.
    How can Damian, Pete Raine, Sandy and co continue to be so credulous? The answer is Mr Brooks Wilson – Kent Ambassador, a man they know and trust through years of contact through various county companies and quangoes. This is why Sykes brought him on board.
    Thanks to people at the highest levels in Imperial’s management structure who are dismayed at the violent yo-yo-ing of Sykes’s tenure, has been amassing a dossier of documents which prove the accuracy of our reports. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing this dossier proving, once and for all, that Imperial – a public body – is squandering money to protect its image.
    It is a scandal and one that is determined to blow wide open.

  2. Ben Moorhead says:

    Justin, Thank you for all your investigative journalism on this.You probably now know the facts as well as anyone.One of the reasons, Clokie, Green et al have to continue to be gung ho is because they will all lose a lot of face when it goes pear-shaped.They are strapped to the mast of a floundering ship.There may not be enough life rafts.

  3. Jack Woodford says:

    Just a small comment in the welter of discussion over the ‘Imperial College Project’, at our last meeting with the Deputy Rector, the question of the College Swimming Pool was raised, it is not possible to use it in this hot weather…not for lack of water, changing rooms,screening from the road, cleanliness….but due to the lack of a qualified Swimming Pool Attendent! With all the money being spent on SOM, Tamesis, PR, Ernst and Young, Brook-Wilson’s Salary, one would think some student could be sent on some crash course to get the appropriate safety certificate (about £100 ) to attend through the summer, and give Wye Residents some place to cool off not only from the Hot Weather but the Hot Air coming out of our interminable discussions with Imperial College!

  4. David Hewson says:

    They’ve used the old ‘lack of a lifeguard’ excuse before. It doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. If they wanted to find someone they could very easily.

  5. Les Westley says:

    As ex-pats from Ashford living in Normandy, I have followed this with both interest and sadness. To my wife and I, Wye has always been an outstanding place of natural beauty. Prescott started the ruin of the south east with his build! Build! Build! project and now this atack on the ANOB is just another illustration of how government can violate their own principles re. green belt preservation when it suits them but give other normal developers a hard time for the normal run-of-the-mill planning applications!

    Well done ‘Save Wye’! Keep up the good work. It would be an act of gross criminallity if this monstrous project was to go ahead.

    Regards. L Westley

  6. Jack Woodford says:

    Many thanks to Les Westley, now living in Normandy, France for taking an interest in our on-going battle with Imperial College to stop massive development around Wye….I wish the same could be said for some of the residents of Ashford, far closer to Wye than those living in France.There are still many residents of Ashford, who do not even know where Wye is, let alone the current on -going situation with Imperial College, in particular the large number of foreign workers who are now living in Ashford…recently in Ashford Gateway, i asked some overseas workers if they were aware of the current problems in and around crowded roads, lack of hospital facilities, schooling (bussing children around to rural schools) lack of afordable housing,and the projected building on ANOB land…to all of these questions they just looked at me blankly…i even asked them in several different European Languages! As about 10% of the population is now from overseas, should we not be making these people aware of the current problems that effect not only Wye, but many other areas of the Country…there are plans now afoot to build massive new housing developments in the Rural Midlands, in countryside not unlike that around Wye.

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