Local resident Rachael Moorhead has just sent this letter to Ashford Borough Council leader Paul Clokie. We will happily carry any reply…
I and many others in the Ashford and Wye areas are dismayed by your comments in the Kentish Express on 27th July begging for ‘a slice of the pie’ in the allocation of new houses despite Sir Terry Farrell’s transparently wise advice to favour developing/regenerating existing brownfield sites around East London where the necessary infrastructure already exists.
You said it was ‘a silly comment’ for Sir Terry to make. I think it is your own stance that is ‘silly’ and worrying. Indeed, no ordinary decent folk would believe it preferable to concrete over greenfield sites and open countryside (around Ashford in this instance) when there are ready brownfield sites to be regenerated. It has been suggested that you are motivated by alliance with major developers for whatever reason. Judging by your track record and your present stance on the Wye ‘Science Park’ project, people say there can be no other explanation. I am unwilling to believe this and have therefore taken it upon myself to write to you for clarification. Why they say have you been at the heart of encouraging seas of new houses in Ashford without adequate roads, water and local amenities? Why are you bullying and attacking other councillors who dare question the development plans on the Wye Science Park project? These are just some of the questions commonly asked. I would welcome a full response but I regret to tell you that in the meantime, the community is troubled by many irregularities that involve your good name.
You have seen fit to deliberately ‘rubbish’ pressure groups with integrity that are providing a democratic voice for the people of East Kent and Wye, a forum which you deny them through lack of consultation and by pushing through development projects not supported by the local population. This jars with your role as a public servant, an office paid for by the taxpayer, supposedly serving the communities in Ashford and its environs. Although your powerful office might in the end crush all opposition on the Wye project, I take heart that nearly all of the parish councils around Ashford/Wye and indeed Wye itself are vehemently against your house-building proposals and your shameless bias towards the developer Imperial. There remains, thank goodness, a nucleus of citizens with integrity and common sense who despite the potential gain in their house prices from the Imperial development, have resisted supporting this greedy sell out of the Kent countryside.
Then there is your truly incredulous remark on jobs. ‘If they (new houses) are all going to be built in London, where does London stop? Why should London have all the jobs when we need them down here? Councillor Clokie, how is it that building more houses will mean new jobs? This assumption is unfathomably ill-conceived – shades of a developer’s marketing banner! Look at the concreting of all the rural areas around Ashford now covered with new homes, encouraged by Ashford Borough Council over the years. This has not remotely given rise to the creation of jobs let alone being proportionate to housebuilding. Moreover, you only have to visit Ashford and its sprawl as a visitor to understand the scale of the disastrous planning (local shops disappearing, traffic often at a standstill, market town character irrevocably destroyed, soul-less out of town retail strips etc).
When recently the government minister Yvette Cooper visited Ashford, there were no tough questions asked of her about infrastructure and she was permitted to go on record that the water problem will resolve itself without you as Leader objecting to her stance. Many wonder whether you are in awe of big players like Richard Sykes of Imperial College, industry leaders, construction magnates, and government ministers, preferring to dance with them on the world stage at the expense of the community you are appointed to serve. Some have said that perhaps honours are within your horizon and your judgement has been clouded by this possible reward system for public servants who oblige. My own view is that your judgement has been clouded by an obsession with housing development.
I frankly cannot believe the measures you have taken to market development projects on behalf of developers. In your recent interviews on the Wye Science Park proposal, you could be mistaken for the marketing arm of Richard Sykes’ Imperial vision. You even went to the extent of misleading the public in your interview with Kentish Express on 20th July by saying that the proposed Science Park means ‘households in Ashford will have 12,500 jobs’. You know this to be untrue not least because at a public meeting in January, Imperial was already at sea in justifying the number of jobs they will be creating for Wye/Ashford. Imperial publicly said that it would be between 400 and 2,000 jobs for Wye/Ashford and the 12,500 figure was for the entire county of Kent. Ashford Borough Council had its representatives at the public meeting — on the podium!
In your capacity as a leader of the community, you should in fact be questioning Imperial on the job creation “carrot”. What types of jobs and how many of each type, skilled and unskilled, timing of job creation and any certainty of such jobs being created etc. None of our local leaders have asked these questions. Imagine how it would be if indeed Imperial gets its £400M by selling 400 acres of AONB land for houses but then fails to create any sustainable jobs for the locality while enjoying their profiteering further through their “Science Park” which, as you know, is no more than groups of office/industrial buildings to be leased for rental income to tenants in like industries. Our local leaders should also be asking Imperial exactly what the research centre will be focusing on and from this verification, challenges can be mounted so that the community can be assured of the exact nature of the proposed research and whether this research centre is in fact viable in world terms. Many experts have said that the USA currently already has surpassed Europe in bio fuel research and their institutions are way ahead in this field. One wonders whether Imperial has chosen this subject because it is topical and favourable with both industry and the public. Indeed, those who teach and learn at Imperial College readily admit that Imperial is not in any way currently highly regarded in bio fuel research. Have you so much as verified the raison d’etre of the proposed research centre? Other than this, you have failed to pressure Imperial for detailed plans even though the first secret concordat with Imperial was in April 2005. You have failed to consult with the public and the local community and failed to probe Imperial on alternative ways of funding the project beyond selling 400 acres of nationally protected AONB land. This is negligence.
As stated in my letter to the Kentish Express last week, basic decency and good governance require that you resign from your involvement in the Wye Science Park project. You are badly tainted with bias having personally been a party to two secret concordats with the developer.
In light of this aspect and other issues above, I am copying this letter to the Leader of your party, David Cameron, my MP Michael Howard as well as the local lobbying site http://www.Save-wye.org.
Mrs. Rachael Moorhead
Cc: David Cameron, MP
Cc: Michael Howard, MP
Cc: Yvette Cooper, MP
Cc: Damian Green, MP
Cc: Paul Carter, KCC