Of pirates, rats, legends, decay and hope

With Ashford Borough Council’s about turn on the LDF wording, Imperial’s buccaneering boat has been holed beneath the water-line and its plans to loot a large chunk of cash by despoiling our beloved countryside through covering it with millions of tons of steel and concrete, manufacturing resources and a plethora of housing, have been well and truly scuppered. As with all sinking vessels its rodent hoi polloi have a connate tendency to save their furry skins by abandoning ship — not unlike the recent flight from the concordat of a certain local politician — expect a rush of others shortly.

The current situation in Wye has more than a passing resemblance to a place called Golconda, now a ruin, which was a city in south-eastern India where, according to legend, everyone who passed through got rich. Its riches faded, its fine buildings collapsed, and its glories disappeared, never to return. Imperial College London with its fleeting tenure of Wye College is passing through our village believing it has fallen upon a source of much riches. However, it tends to be the way with legendary sources of unimaginable wealth that when the mighty casket of jewels is seen to be an hallucination engendered by greed and avarice, the thwarted Merchants of Opportunism move on to the next perceived area of opportunity in an attempt to slake their thirst for wealth, leaving a decaying legacy behind.

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Ruined dreams: the crumbling remains of Golconda in India. The situation in Wye bears more than a passing resemblance, writes Kerry Bethel

Already we have seen a marked deterioration in the fabric of the College Buildings, deliberately allowed to occur as a warning to the village of what will happen if Imperial are rebuffed. In articles on April 16 and April 18, save-wye.org highlighted the very poor state of the college buildings directly resulting from Imperial wilfully withholding funds for repairs and maintenance.

Remember the words of Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz when he arrogantly addressed the public meeting at Withersdane on January 8? ‘It’s all or nothing’ – which is city-slicker speak for ‘all for us and nothing for you’. The act of running down the condition of the college buildings and estate was a calculated warning to us of the shape of things to come if we opposed Imperial’s money-making ambitions and is the peace time equivalent of the scorched earth policy pusillanimously adopted by fleeing routed armies.

Unlike Golconda, Wye will go from strength to strength and flourish in the aftermath of the Sir Richard ‘I Used To Be In Big Business’ Sykes led attempt to convert land into gold at whatever the cost in terms of social unhappiness and environmental damage. Since the shock announcement last December, the village and surrounding neighbours have united in a most resolute way and have through Wye Parish Council, Wye Future Group, David and Justin at save-wye and various other individuals and groups presented a spirited and effective defence of our heritage.

The continuation of this newly found grit will be needed to temper the death throes of Imperial’s machinations and ensure that whatever redevelopment on brownfield sites is agreed, will only serve to enhance and enrich our community for generations to come.

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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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