Imperial makes it official: Wye Park is dead

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Under threat no more: the green acres of Wye. Photo: Steve Bloom

Print versionImperial College this morning announced that it is abandoning its controversial plans for a research park, science hub and housing development in Wye. After months of revelations and growing disquiet over the way the project had been prosecuted in tandem with Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council, the college blamed its collapse principally on economics.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Deputy Rector and the man in charge of trying to bring Wye Park into being, said the project team had ‘concluded that none of the scenarios for the vision would represent a wise, viable or desirable investment of public funds for Imperial College and Wye.’

The idea, touted as a £1 billion housing and science park attracting up to 12,500 jobs only nine months ago, is now dead in the water, its cancellation due to be formally rubber-stamped by the college’s management board on September 29. But, after the hammer blow of Ashford Council’s rejection of the idea earlier this week, Professor Sir Leszek released a statement at seven a.m. today confirming that he would be recommending the college ‘does not proceed any further with its investigation into delivering a world-class research centre, science hub and associated housing at its campus in Wye’.

The statement added…

Since the announcement of the Concordat between Imperial, Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council in December 2005, the College has been exploring its vision for sustaining and developing the campus in Wye that could have secured jobs locally and regionally, and led to scientific developments of global importance.

Having carefully considered all the issues involved, the project team has concluded that none of the scenarios for the vision would represent a wise, viable or desirable investment of public funds for Imperial College and Wye. As a result, the Deputy Rector will recommend to the College’s Management Board on 29 September that the College should no longer pursue the scientific vision for Wye.

Professor Sir Leszek went on to recognise that public opinion, which was uniformly against the plan, played an important part in the decision.

I would personally like to thank the people in Wye and surrounding villages, particularly the Parish Council and other elected representatives, for their patience and co-operation over the last few months. As I said at the first public meeting in January, the views of local people would play a significant part in our decision-making process and I have appreciated the responses that have been received.The College remains committed to the high quality teaching that takes place at Wye and we will continue to support academic teaching activity there. This includes the highly successful Imperial College/University of Kent Applied Business Management undergraduate degree courses, Masters degrees and the Distance Learning Programmes. As we stated in December 2005, we will review the arrangements with University of Kent in 2011.

Nor does it seem that there will be any rapid decisions on the future of the estate. Professor Sir Leszek added that the college has no current plans to expand research and development in Wye and will not be instigating a search for a replacement to ‘the vision project’. ‘Any decisions on future activity at Wye campus will, of course, be shared with local residents at the earliest opportunity.’

The full statement is below.

Press Statement 14-09-06

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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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15 Responses to Imperial makes it official: Wye Park is dead

  1. Francis Huntington says:

    Thank you save-wye for your tenacity – David and Justin, you have served this community in an outstanding way – you added an element to the process which was absolutely vital.

    The other vital elements were of course the persistance of the Parish Council and WFG plus the overwhelming public response demonstrated in the volumn of letters received by Richard Alderton at ABC.

    I sense that there may be more to do – perhaps through this site we can continue to be informed and to debate the future needs of this community, as a valuable adjunct to other more traditional forums.

    Francis Huntington

  2. Kerry Bethel says:

    Elation led to a non-u – correction HALLELUJAH!

  3. Marlon Sorken says:

    What a victory for Wye, thank you again David and Justin, thank you Wye Future Group and all who fought so hard for this very special village.

  4. Richard Bartley says:

    Who would have predicted such news nine months ago? This outcome is largely thanks to the skill and dedication of the save-wye team and the flow of high quality information from various anonymous sources. Without their leaks, provided at great personal risk, and the articles they fed, Imperial would have continued to dominate the media and kept their initial momentum. By chance, the motto of SOAS is “Knowledge is Power” and who could dispute that today?

    Looking ahead, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the College site will continue, but after six years under Imperial’s ownership that is not new. Local people now have the chance to take the initiative. We must ensure that whatever replaces the Imperial vision is appropriate and sustainable.

    Again, many thanks for ensuring that Wye will not become a town after all. For now.

  5. Diana Pound says:

    .

    Great news for Wye and surrounding area.

    Great news for all those individuals and organisations who have worked so hard to bring crucial information into the public domain (save-wye) and make robust planning and environmental arguments and lobby key decisions makers ( WFG and advisers, CPRE, AONB – and other organisations who have been alerted to the issue and quietly taken action).

    I do hope ICL got the message that those who care about Wye, do want to see thriving academic and research activity at Wye and would welcome any rebuild that is appropriate in scale and design to the setting. It was the nature and scale of their ‘vision’ in such a sensitive location that was the issue.

    I would personally like to thank those in the community who put their trust in me when they didn’t know me and were unfamiliar with the system so couldn’t know whether or not any advice I gave was sound. I would also like to thank John Baker (Planning Adviser) for genuinely caring about this small community on the other side of the country – he and his team have been very generous with their time and commitment.

    There is still some work to do to ensure that the Local Development Framework contains policies that protect our ancient villages, communities, beautiful landscape, and wildlife, from large scale or inappropriate development in the future.

    The community will also want to be involved in influencing what ever happens to the College Estate.

    But enough of all that, for now the pressure is off, celebrations are in order and I propose those who can, meet this evening at the New Fly in Wye – I’ll be there from 7:30pm – see you there.

  6. Nick Dunlop says:

    We haven’t just saved Wye, we’ve struck a blow for the English countryside. We’ve helped to show that the protection of beautiful landscape in any AONB or national park isn’t to be trifled with: even if officials are slow to defend it, the residents are not.

    I hope the next insitution that wants to raise hundreds of millions of pounds by wrecking an AONB will draw the most important lesson: never underestimate a small English village. I for one feel very proud of ours today.

  7. Ivan Warboys says:

    Thank you save-wye team. Great news for the village and our surrounding countryside. For those of us in the middle of the “proposed park” a great relief for now. But Richard is right. We must encourage Imperial to find appropriate and sustainable uses for its estate and brown field sites. I am concerned that they will continue to allow these sites to decay and crumble away as is happeneing to Coldharbour House. Many of the estate sites are in a shocking state of repair and have not had any maintenance or repair for years, ie sites in Amage Road, Silks Lane and Sidelands. And what about the ADAS site in Olantigh Road, buildings in Occupation Road etc. etc? One could go on and on. Now that the vision of a World Class research centre has gone Imperial must not be allowed to sit back and forget its obligation to the estate it still owns and to the village which it so nearly destroyed.

  8. Ben Moorhead says:

    Dear Justin and David,
    WFG, myself and everyone concerned for Wye send their renewed thanks for everything you have done to help win this battle. When we were down you cheered us, when there was a gap or uncertainty you found new angles and stories to plug it.You found the plan, the single most important revelation to date. I cannot thank you both enough.
    It’s been a fraught journey with a joyful end.
    Ben

  9. Emma Chown says:

    What fantastic news – I feel totally emotional. Thank you, thank you to everybody who has helped, including save-wye, WFG and everybody who has advised WFG, the Parish Council and all the individuals who wrote letters about the LDF.

    I agree that there is more to be done but, for now, let’s celebrate!

  10. Dylan Bradley says:

    Thank you to Justin and David for keeping the momentum going when there was little new to report. Thanks to the WFG, the Parish Council and everyone else who has worked so hard for our village (and will no doubt keep working hard for our village).

    Surely there must be some way the village could recognise the role played by key people, perhaps at the Christmas street party?

  11. Alan & Val Paterson says:

    Well done WFG and all who contributed – what a fantastic team effort!

    We should remain vigilant against any further ‘stealth-bomber’ attacks but I am confident that the sources of information that have emerged and the ranks of volunteers available will see off any inappropriate challenges.

    To David and Justin – our renewed thanks for your tireless commitment and expertise. We should also thank and recognise the bravery of your ‘whistleblowing’ sources.

    The second year of Alan’s retirement has brought high blood pressure and a wasted subscription to Ashford Golf Club, both thanks to you know who – but it’s all been worth it!

  12. Andy & Sallyann says:

    Thank you Justin, David, the whistleblowers, WFG & Parish Council – great work and fantastic news.

    We are so pleased that our children will be able to grow up in this wonderfull, vibrant and friendly village. Saved from rampant over-development and dubious local/regional government.

  13. Tony Durrant says:

    Well done chaps. Hastingleigh also breathes a sigh oif relief.

  14. John Bessing says:

    Thank you save-wye! I’ve been following your campaign for a while now – it reassures me to see that the views of the people can still be heard these days! Imperial can take their money and jobs somewhere else!

  15. Wendy Marks says:

    Excellent news – congratulations to you all. I am part of an action group in North Yorkshire fighting a developer in our AONB who wants to develope a site by increasing it’s current footprint by almost 50%. It is always good to hear that the small voice can still be heard above the larger shout of the developer. It is also great to see community spirit is still alive and well in our rural areas.

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