£17m: Imperial prepares to flog off the silver

Imperial is preparing to sell parts of its Wye Campus to cover the cost of its hugely expensive and disastrous attempt to build a science park and 4,000 houses in the village.

Documents seen by save-wye.org show that valuers called in by Imperial’s estates department have put a figure of close to £17 million on the main assets at the college, more than enough to cover the £6 million Imperial is believed to have spent buying Wye in the first place and and the £1 million it has spent so far on its Wye Park ‘vision’.

save-wye.org understands that Imperial would sell off many of its buildings to cover its costs on the Wye project. One option being discussed is ‘land banking’ the farmed part of the estate in the hope that it would be able to develop it in future.

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Much of the college property in Wye is in a decrepit condition with a maintenance backlog of several years and the valuations reflect this. However, there are some big numbers involved with the most valuable — the northern part of the main campus — priced at £5.6 million, presumably to reflect its potential for development. The southern part of the main campus — the area around the medieval heart of the college — has been valued at £1.8 million while Withersdane, with its redevelopment potential, has been priced at £4.4 million.

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The ADAS site on Olantigh Road has been valued at £750,000, the Horticultural Site at £500,000, Sidelands at £210,000 and Coldharbour at £600,000. The farm and land has been priced at £2.7 million, although Imperial hopes that this will rise to close to £100 million if it succeeds in getting its redevelopment of the campus incorporated into the Local Development Framework — something that is looking more unlikely by the day. Other parts of the estate identified as having development potential are the pig unit in Amage Road, Amage Farm and the Sidelands depot.

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Concern is growing within Imperial’s management structure and governing council over the amount of money committed to pursuing the Wye Park project — a scheme which is beginning to look doomed and is likely to be knocked on the head by the management board at its next meeting on September 29. It is understood that members of the college’s property advisory committee have been told that the estates department would be able to recover the £1million spent on the Wye Park project so far ‘relatively quickly’ if the project goes ‘tits up’.

The figure of £17 million would represent a decent profit for Imperial if it seeks to extricate itself from the mess it has made of Wye. The merger with Wye cost in the region of £5 million, although £2.5 million of that was provided by the Higher Education Funding Council of England. Imperial wrote off loans and interest to the value of £3.5 million but it still keeps the figure of the operating deficit at Wye secret. Realising £17 million would give it a profit of more than £10 million but this is just a tenth of the ‘endowment’ it is still seeking by, as it told its management board on June 12, ‘unlocking land with residential planning consent’.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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