Clokie to anglers: at least your fish are safe

While most everyone in east Kent now realises that Imperial’s grand vision is unravelling by the day, Paul Clokie, leader of Ashford Borough Council, plods on in its service regardless. Yesterday he met members of the Stour Fisheries Association, which represents angling interests on the lovely river that runs through Wye, and sought to assure them that the so-called science park won’t ruin the neighbouring water with polluting effluent.

Not that he quite managed this. Cllr Clokie revealed to the group’s representatives that any science park would involve a plant to refine bio mass into fuel oil, as this site has predicted several times, though Imperial have repeatedly promised no manufacturing would take place in the village. Relax, though. Paul Clokie said Imperial had the technology to ensure that the resulting effluent, which presumably would find its way into the river by one means or another, would be purified to ensure it didn’t harm the environment.

Trout

The Stour is a migratory fish river: sea trout and a few salmon spawn in the section between Ashford and Canterbury, and brown trout spawn on the gravels, according to Mid Kent Fisheries

White Claw CrayDoes this sound convincing? Well, not to us anyway, not least because this is an industrial process Imperial has always said would not be happening in the village at all. The Great Stour is a unique and interesting river too. Though many of us may take this slender thread of gleaming water for granted it is rather special. This stretch of river is well documented by naturalists. It is a breeding ground for brown trout, some sea trout and occasionally even salmon. It is also home to the white claw crayfish, the native creature, pictured right, which is now a protected species and will surely be subject to future environmental surveys should Imperial’s plans ever be revived (all environmental surveys stopped when the project went into ‘economy mode’ earlier this year, remember).

Picture 1-4Paul Clokie sat down with representatives of Stour Fisheries to give them a run through of the Imperial project. He told them the proposed house building at Wye — which might reach five thousand homes — was in addition to the Ashford area quota and passed on a lot of information you could have read here weeks ago. For example, Imperial has lost the sponsorship of BP for the village science park but still hoped that any research establishment would be involved in the production of engine oil. His comments about the availability of some magic bullet technology to clean up the effluent from Wye’s new fuel refinery were prompted by concerns among Stour Fisheries representatives about the effects this might have on the river. As you can see from the pop-up image on the right, Wye’s current water quality is listed as Grade B, which counts as good but not the best (the full report from which this is abstracted is available at the foot of this article). We are not aware of any great technical expertise on the part of Cllr Clokie when it comes to environmental effluent management, so we will leave to others the technical explanation of how the output of a fuel refinery might reach a modest river with no ill effects.

As far as we can ascertain, the one point at which Planet Clokie touched Planet Earth during this discussion came when he revealed that a decision on the council’s stance is likely to come next Monday. Though he didn’t reveal why, we already have; that is the date council planning chief Richard Alderton has fixed for a decision on the core strategy, one brought forward from October because of the revelations of Imperial’s actual plans here. Brown trout, white claw crayfish and the residents of the entire Wye area wait with bated breath.

The meeting with Stour Fisheries took place in the spill-over ABC accommodation in Charter House not the Civic Centre. Cllr Clokie told those present the authority knew there was a mole somewhere inside the council’s principal home.

Really?

ReportStour Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy, Environment Agency

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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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2 Responses to Clokie to anglers: at least your fish are safe

  1. Sean Furey says:

    I would like to make some additions to this report as someone who was there:

    The meeting was a regular one that has occurred every six months between the Stour Fisheries Association, Cllr Clokie and the Environment Agency.

    It is held immediately before the Ashford’s Future Delivery Board meeting, in the Ashford’s Future office in Charter House. This arrangement was set up in the past to give an opportunity for the SFA to raise issues with Cllr Clokie and the EA’s Regional Director or Kent Area Manager.

    The SFA, Environment Agency and Ashford Borough Council are working in partnership to protect and enhance the chemical and biological quality of the Stour.

    We currently have no official view on the proposed Wye development because no information has been submitted to us. However, any major industrial or research processes would require our approval as would any discharge of effluent. Given the sensivity of the area and the river, any proposals would come under heavy scrutiny.

    The additional housing, shown in documents released on this website, would be of concern because of the surface drainage and the additional load on Wye wastewater treatment works. Both would increase the risk to the River Stour so we would object or insist on high levels of Sustainable Drainage (SUDS), process water re-cycling, and wastewater treatment, as we are in Ashford.

    Water issues have been high profile in relation to Ashford and other communities in the Stour, such as Wye, are inextricably linked.

    Anyone wanting to know more about how water supply, sewage, flooding and nature conservation and enhancement issues can be addressed can download the Sections 1 and 9 of the ‘Ashford Integrated Water Management Study’ from http://www.ashfordsfuture.org (click’Master Plan’-> ‘Documents’ -> ‘Integrated Water Management Study Documents’) or contact me and I can provide the whole document on CD-ROM and the draft strategy to 2031.

    It is worth mentioning that Cllr Clokie’s attitude towards Imperial was far from glowing. He was of the view that Ashford BC had wanted Wye College to be redeveloped as a research facility, using existing brownfield land with any additional housing being limited to that required by staff at the facility. What he did not want was ‘enabling’ housing development in the AONB. Thus, as a neutral observer, I feel the above article is not a totally fair reflection of the debate.

    We’ll continue to monitor the plans, if they emerge, but in the meantime a big well done to this website for encouraging a vigorous public debate based on facts extracted using Freedom of Information Act powers. (Speaking of which, the meetings with the Cllr Clokie, ourselves and the SFA are fairly informal chats and I don’t keep meeting notes. However, I’m willing to talk to anyone about these meetings or water issues in the upper Stour catchment).

    cheers

    Sean Furey
    Sustainable Development Officer (Ashford), Environment Agency

  2. Kerry Bethel says:

    Talk about ‘Clokie and Dagger’! Yet another example of Paul Clokie’s predilection for involvement in meetings away from the scrutiny of other councillors or the public. Public accountabilty is non-existent. Cllr Davidson, Leader of The Independent Group in todays KE, complains that this style of governance is the benchmark of Cllr Clokie’s administration.

    What’s with his obsessional craving for secrecy and for keeping most of his fellow councillors and Ashford residents in the dark? Perhaps it is hoped that by the time others realise what is going on it will be too late to to anything about altering his political hankerings?

    Little is known about his background before moving to the Ashford area a few years ago but his recent behaviour points to a career in the Secret Service or similar.

    It stretches belief to twanging point to buy into the story that it has only just dawned on him that Imperial were on an asset stripping expedition from the very outset. If he is to be believed then his naivity would surely render him unfit to be the leader of ABC.

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