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