Some parting questions for ‘The Usual Suspects’


Click on the name to go there: Paul Clokie, David Hill, Ian Cooling, Paul Carter, Pete Raine and a rare photograph of the elusive Charles Findlay.

The Usual SuspectsWye Park is dead, our job is done. But before we go we’d like to leave something to occupy your time now save-wye is slumbering peacefully. There are still some awkward questions remaining in this story, and we thought we’d pass on the names of some of the people who can supply the answers. Remember: Wye was lucky. Imperial were terrible property developers and shockingly weak when it came to organisation, planning and delivery. The one thing they did seem extremely adept at was working the private, hidden network of councillors, officials and quango members through which this scandal was put together in the first place.

When Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz stood up to address the village on January 9 he thought the college had secured secret prior agreements with some of your key public representatives, a deal so strong that the death of the community and countryside of Wye was just a matter of time, money and a little sham negotiation… then bring on the builders. What exactly made Imperial feel that way?

You deserve to know, preferably with the rapid help of some form of independent inquiry into this extraordinary saga. Those responsible for allowing Imperial to think its dreadful pipedream was simply a shoo-in need to be called to account. We, remember, are just two blokes up the hill. You are the public so please, for everyone’s sake, make sure this final essential task gets finished.

And if you’re reading this Professor Borys, let us try to put our message in words you’ll understand. What you tried to do in concert with your tame puppets in local government was immoral, undemocratic and despicable. You sought to ride roughshod over the rights of ordinary individuals who never deserved to be the victims of your overweening greed or the underhand deals you thought you had cut in order to to send your bulldozers onto the green fields of Wye. You and your cohorts have damaged deeply our trust in the way our lives and our communities are governed. For the sake of everyone who cherishes not just the English countryside but our rights as individual citizens to fair treatment under the law, we must comprehend why you believed you could get away with this monstrous chicanery so that we ensure it never occurs anywhere in this country again.

Project Alchemy has done incalculable harm to the reputation of your college and led to the squandering of more than £1 million that could have been used to revive your estate in Wye, not destroy it. The whisper in the corridors of Imperial is that this shameful episode means you will not succeed Richard Sykes when he retires as rector in 2008, with the near-automatic seat in the House of Lords that position brings. What a terrible miscarriage of justice that would be when it should have cost you your job.

Councillor Paul Clokie, Conservative leader, Ashford Borough Council

Picture 2-2There are many questions one could ask of Paul Clokie, and not all of them are to do with Wye. How, for example, did he migrate from being a member and onetime leader of Kingston Council to Ashford and then, within a matter of months, emerge as the leader of the authority, a place where, to most of his peers, he was a complete stranger? But we will leave that to someone else — perhaps, ahem, the Kentish Express? — to investigate now. The statement of Cllr Clokie’s which interests us most is this, issued last week when Wye Park was falling apart after Richard Alderton, the planning chief, judged that it could no longer be allowed into the local development framework…

Whilst I continue in principle to support Imperial College in working up proposals for re-development of their brownfield land at the Wye campus, I want to place on record that it was never my intention in signing the Concordats with Kent County Council and Imperial to support the working up of proposals on this scale, or of proposals which incorporate large scale residential enabling development on greenfield AONB land.

Straightforward stuff, you’d think. For anyone without a memory that is. What Cllr Clokie needs to explain to the public is this: how could he have been ignorant of something that was so obvious to everyone else? And why, if he was ignorant of it, did he keep on sounding as if he knew exactly what was going on all along?

Paul Clokie was a member of the Project Alchemy group set up by Imperial College to further its ambitions in the company of ABC and KCC. He signed both concordats. He was furnished with the ‘key messages’ briefing paper which we published only last month. He and KCC’s Paul Carter parroted verbatim from the brief provided by Imperial’s consultants when he wrote to government ministers urging them to take up this ‘exciting vision’ with its 12,500 promised jobs. Whitehall knew exactly what was on the cards when this missive landed on their desks: huge development in the AONB and they wanted to distance themselves from it immediately. So why didn’t the man who wrote the letter, Paul Clokie?

Until the public revelation of the massive scale of Wye Park here in August, Cllr Clokie was Imperial’s staunchest of allies. When we disclosed that the project was put into ‘economy mode’ he wailed to the Kentish Express, ‘Households in Ashford will have 12,500 jobs and that is what people need to bear in mind.’ How can Paul Clokie reconcile his belief that 12,500 jobs were on the way with a £1 billion science and research park with his statement that he never, in signing the concordats, intended ‘to support the working up of proposals on this scale’? Where exactly did he think all the money, bricks, mortar and people would go?

And why did he not apparently talk to his officers? Last week save-wye asked Richard Alderton some straight questions and got some commendably straight answers given how tough we’ve been with him in the past. We asked Mr Alderton if he could confirm to us what Ashford had been told by Imperial about the scale of the development. He said…

When Imperial first discussed their ideas they used financial models with different assumptions about the amount of development for different uses — including the suggestion of 250 acres of housing. Our advice to them has consistently been that only housing properly related to the primary science/ research use could be justified on planning grounds — not enabling development justified simply to make the scheme viable. We have also advised on several occasions, including the earliest stages, that Imperial should seek Government and private sector funding for the project so that there was no need for enabling development.

In other words, a development of 250 acres — which was on such a scale that it could only take place if it involved the greenfield AONB land — was on the table. Yet the leader of ABC, a man who signed both concordats, and was a member of the Project Alchemy working group from the beginning, says he never knew. Before he makes his way out of the Civic Centre for good, perhaps he might care to explain this extraordinary lapse — of memory, judgement or both, who knows? — to his electorate.

Picture 3-1David Hill, chief executive, Ashford Borough Council

Council officials are often in an awkward position when controversial plans are on the table. They may have private reservations — in the case of Wye Park huge ones in the case of some — but their duty is to the authority, and their actions have to be guided by council policy or, as it is better known in Ashford, the personal diktat of Paul Clokie. Not that ABC’s chief executive needed any spine stiffening. He appears to have held no doubts about Wye Park since day one, and was a keen and active backer until the very moment it began to fall apart. From the outset Mr Hill, like his leader, was a member of the Project Alchemy team, gaining privileged access to the documents you have seen leaked here over the last few months. In February he was sticking to the official line, telling Kent on Sunday, ‘The concordat launched a vision, not a plan.’

Yesterday he was in the same paper…

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Again, we have to ask… how on earth could he have been so ignorant of what was really going on? Why is it that an inside member of the team had to rely on investigative reporting by this website in order to discover the truth about Imperial’s plans to concrete over Wye? Didn’t he ask David Brooks Wilson and Imperial’s consultants at all these friendly meetings for some guidance on scale and the direction of the project? If he didn’t, why not? If he did, what exactly was he told? The truth or fiction?

And if it was fiction, will ABC and KCC now send a bill to Imperial for all the wasted officer time — which Paul Clokie has refused to estimate — that will have to paid out of Ashford’s council tax revenues in order to accommodate yet one more failed ABC pipedream, like the ridiculous Discovery Centre? What redress does Ashford intend to seek for, apparently, being misled at some great expense all this time?

Councillor Ian Cooling, Conservative member for Wye on Ashford Borough Council

Picture 4-2We could fill an entire article on with questions about Wye Park for the contradiction that is Wye’s borough councillor. Here are just a few…

1) On February 16, you were asked at a parish council meeting why you continued to have a business relationship with Imperial College. You told the meeting that you were under contract to provide consultancy advice on promoting the college’s catering and conferencing facilities but this contract had been terminated by the college at the end of 2004. Since then, you told the meeting that you had no contract and no retainer with the college. Perhaps you would care to explain, then, why you continue to have a college email address, logon to Spectrum (ICL’s intranet) and an office at South Kensington:


2) At that same meeting and subsequently, you have continued to insist that you knew nothing about Imperial’s plans for Wye until David Hill gave you the news on November 18. Why, then, are you named on the Project Alchemy website and included in the incredibly complex arrangements that were made to inform hundreds of people of the unveiling of the Concordat on December 9? This document (full version available for download) was created on November 8 — a full 10 days before you claimed to have been ‘brought into the loop’. If you knew nothing then, why was David Hill going to get you to invite people on behalf of Project Alchemy?


3) On Friday evening, you put round WFG just about the most smug email of your career, claiming the credit for ‘changing minds’ and squashing Wye Park. Given your record on this and other issues, would you mind explaining why you have been in regular email and telephone contact with David Brooks Wilson, advising him how best to overcome local objections to Wye Park and briefing him about the characters that Imperial have described as ‘the enemy’? We have read a succession of emails that, putting the most generous interpretation we can on them, raise disturbing questions about your allegiance throughout these last nine months. We’ll only print one, sent to Mr Brooks Wilson on June 6 which seems to show you displaying remarkable knowledge about meetings that month and the next crucial to the future of Wye Park:


4) Even more importantly, perhaps you would like to explain to your constituents the true extent of your relationship with Mr Brooks Wilson. Why, for example, would he list you as one of his most important business contacts? Below is an extract from a handover form produced by Mr Brooks Wilson’s outgoing PA, Claudia Hutt, to leave for his new secretary, Hollie Richmond. It lists everything that is most important to ‘this busy man’ and, so that she can place people immediately, lists his closest and most important acquaintances. There are only eight names under ‘Business contacts’ including Jeremy Newsum, the chief executive of Grosvenor Estates; Simon O’Donnell from the Hines Group; and Tim Walker the No2 at the country’s most successful lobbying firm, Bell Pottinger. So why is your name the first on the list?


We know of your genuine and heartfelt affection for Wye and its residents, Ian. We know, too, that you put in long hours on work that most of us would find too tedious to countenance. But this was the big one, a threat to our community and countryside which, if it had been successful, would have destroyed the area we love forever. Your constituents had the right to expect active, visible, unequivocal leadership. Instead, when we needed clarity, you gave us slippery prevarication. When we needed direct, strong public support, you gave us silences or whispered murmurs about ‘working behind the scenes’. When the outcome was certain you found your voice at last and e-mailed John Hodder, the parish council chairman, and Ben Moorhead, the chairman of Wye Future Group, to say you had not been more visible because ‘with the two of you so superbly effective in action, there was simply no need for a third.’

That doesn’t wash. You were a member of the authority and a close confidante of its leader as he hatched this plot with Imperial. You had a duty to speak out in a loud, clear and independent voice and you ducked it. We know you’ll argue till the cows come home that you were never in the Imperial camp. But do you think it’s possible that David Brooks Wilson and his colleagues had, for whatever reason, somehow come to believe otherwise?

Councillor Paul Carter, Conservative leader, Kent County Council
Picture 5-2Paul Carter is a property developer by profession. And it shows. Though he inherited Wye Park from his predecessor as leader of Kent County Council, Sandy (now Lord) Bruce-Lockhart, Cllr Carter demonstrated no lack of enthusiasm for talking up Imperial’s plans on any possible occasion, at least in the early days. He fell silent after June though, doubtless understanding that the ‘economy mode’ into which it had slunk was terminal. But how does he feel now?

Here he is spouting off to yesterday’s Kent on Sunday

Picture 11

Well, thank you for confirming (not that we didn’t know already) that it was Imperial’s realisation it had bitten off more than it could chew with the stroppy locals that sank Wye Park. But… come again, Paul?

‘Very disappointing news’? For whom exactly? Your dining chums in the cosy tight Kent network of councillors, officials, and quango hangers-on where this nightmare was dreamed up? Your fellow property developers who just couldn’t wait to start driving in the bulldozers to create four thousand identikit boxes on land that supposedly has the same degree of protection from greed-driven development as a national park?

Seriously, we’d like to know, because we never found anyone in the village who wanted Wye Park and we live here. Nor could the BBC when they went looking last week. In fact the only faint evidence we can unearth that such people ever existed lies in the statement of one Ian Cooling who said certain unnamed individuals were afraid to speak their minds because they might get a brick through the window. We found that statement hard to accept when it was made, and utterly inconceivable now.

We have three questions for Paul Carter. Why on earth is he dismayed that a plan which would have destroyed a cherished rural environment and put a quasi-industrial and housing complex in its place has now been felled by a well-directed outburst of local democracy? Why does he continue to believe that the Wye area, with some of the lowest unemployment in the county, needed all this ’significant employment growth and future jobs and prosperity’ (for which read ‘hordes of lowly-paid east European plasterers and brickies temporarily imported to build cheap housing and enrich the pockets of the building industry thereby’)? And precisely for whose benefit did he pursue this dreadful monster so assiduously?

Pete Raine, strategic planning director, Kent County Council

Picture 6-1Pete Raine, amateur dramatist, one-time conservationist and now strategic planning director of Kent County Council, has successfully managed to infuriate just about everybody during the Wye Park saga. One of the original members of Project Alchemy back at the beginning of 2005, Mr Raine’s enthusiasm for Wye Park and Imperial College knew no bounds. Indeed, he was so excited that, on the express orders of Prof Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, he set up and chaired a supposedly ‘independent’ environmental consultation panel which only met once. So concerned about the bias he displayed towards the college, English Nature and the Kent Downs AONB unit refused to attend. One delegate described how Mr Raine — at its first and only meeting — could barely contain his impatience with those who insisted on questioning the environmental wisdom of building thousands of homes on Grade I farmland.

If there’s a scintilla of integrity left at County Hall, a committee should be formed to investigate the conduct of Mr Raine, who lives in Stowting, throughout the short life of Project Alchemy. If it does meet, we’d like answers to the following questions:

1) Why, if ‘there were no plans, only an idea’, did Mr Raine repeatedly tell anybody willing to listen that he was personally delirious with excitement at the prospect of Wye Park. Just two weeks ago, he told a Meridian TV correspondent reporting on the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s objection to Imperial’s vision, that ‘we think this is a terribly exciting project’. Why did he tell Mary Gold in the Bricks and Mortar section of Friday’s Times the same thing. And why, during the same interview, did he tell Ms Gold that he was ‘not prepared to comment on the veracity of the Wye website’ after we had blown the lie behind Imperial’s plans?

2) On what authority did Mr Raine copy to David Brooks Wilson emails and correspondence sent to him by and others concerned about the plans for Wye Park. Why, despite an express request for material not to be shared with third parties, did he continue to do this up to the bitter end?

3) Would he care to look at the following slides he produced for a presentation to a KCC committe in April and now, finally, admit, that he actually got them the wrong way round? That what he said Wye Park wasn’t, in many ways was exactly what it would have been? And what he claimed it could be was entirely a myth created by Imperial College’s consultants and PR lizards to be swallowed by the callow, credulous yet sadly ambitious muppets who swam in Imperial’s wake like ravenous gulls following the offal trail from some North Sea trawler?

What Wye Park is not (but it is really)
What Wye Park could never be unless you lived in la-la land

We know why you got this wrong, Pete. Mostly, those were Imperial’s words, not yours. But it’s time someone broke this to you. If you want to earn that six-figure salary, you really should be able to discern the difference between the two.

Councillor Charles Findlay, Conservative member for Ashford Rural East on Kent County Council

Charles FindlayNo-one can accuse Charles Findlay of wrongdoing. In order for that to happen he would have to have done something in the first place. And, when it comes to vast environmental nightmares on his own doorstep, doing things just isn’t Charles Findlay’s style. Cllr Findlay lives in the village and Wye Park was the largest potential development project to have occurred in his constituency in history, hopefully ever. And his opinion of it?

Your guess is as good as ours. He said nothing when the Concordat was announced. He said nothing when we revealed that a secret version had been agreed nine months earlier. He was silent when his own authority cravenly killed Freedom of Information releases to us on the orders of Imperial College. Not a word escaped Cllr Findlay’s lips when we revealed, with detailed maps, the full scale of the horror that Imperial College wished to visit upon the area he represents. His only public brief mention of the subject was at the annual parish meeting in May. Here is an extract from Justin Williams’ verbatim report of that astonishing event…

At one point, parishioner Vinny McLean demanded: ‘When are our councillors going to get up to speed and start representing us?’
Cllr Findlay, who did not mention Wye during his review of the past year with Kent County Council, said that, as no plans existed, he could not form a view. He said: ‘I will take a view whether I go along with the village. I will listen to all the views. There are wider aspects here — Brook, Mersham and Aldington are part of me. It is wider than Wye.’

There was one more private intervention, though it was scarcely on behalf of Wye. In April Cllr Findlay wrote to Professor Borysiewicz after a village ‘consultation panel’ to say that he thought some of his constituents taking part had been somewhat ‘over-argumentative’ and that he regarded Prof Borys as rather ‘brave’ to put himself in front of them. Oh, and there was one other aside as Cllr Findlay passed the Wye Future Group stand last Saturday, the day after the great victory, when he told those manning it, ‘You’ll have to give all that money back now.’

That is the sum total of what your county councillor had to say to constituents who had just escaped, by a cat’s whisker, losing the land they loved, and facing instead the prospect of their homes being blighted by uncertainty and vast construction works for years to come.

In 2005 Charles Findlay was elected to KCC with a majority of almost two thousand votes out of fewer than eight thousand cast. Last year he claimed more than £20,000 in allowances and expenses from the authority, which means that, at the current rate, he has another £50,000 or so to pocket before, in 2009, the voters of Ashford East have a chance to pass judgement on his performance, if it can be called that.

Our question for Charles Findlay is very simple. What on earth are you for?


About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome, Pieter Vos in Amsterdam, adaptions of the Sarah Lund stories in Copenhagen, and versions of Shakespeare worked for Audible.
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20 Responses to Some parting questions for ‘The Usual Suspects’

  1. Kerry Bethel says:

    If any of the ‘The Usual Suspects’ had any principals or moral sense whatsoever they would feel duty-bound to fall on their swords after their participation in this shabby and despicable affair.

    We know, of course, that they won’t and will try to brazen their way through the scandal hoping that memories are short. Let those wanting re-election in the future be crystal clear WE WILL NEVER FORGET THE HARM THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD WE HAD TO RELY ON THEIR HELP! If they still harbour a desire to have a future in local government then the advice is to go and find another ward because Wye doesn’t want you!

    WFG must continue with the complaint against certain councillors and officers so that the whole sorry affair can be exposed to a wider audience. Do not let them off the hook now – that would be tragic!

  2. Merrilie McLeod says:

    If, this tremendous battle having been won, these same people are re-elected, it will be a disgrace. We look with scorn upon the politicians of other countries whom we consider to be feathering their own nests, we speak of ours being the Mother of Parliaments, a leader in democracy and decency. yet where was the altruism amongst those representing Wye. Thank goodness for Cllr Davison who remembered the principles of democracy.

    All the Wye voters asked was that their representatives represent them – and to do that those representatives should have stood up and spoken out loud. To how many of us did Mr. Cooling offer to talk “in private” – never once making a pronouncement of worth. He claimed he wished to represent everyone – yet at the end of the day he represented no one. He did not stand up and say -this is a good project we need the jobs for my constituents. Nor did he say it is a bad project for it will destroy the countryside and the lives that are lived in it. Mr. Cooling said nothing, but sought to hide behind his “I’m reserving judgment”. Who was he afraid of upsetting?

    Messrs. Findlay and Green have behaved no better. They at least however appear ( so far) to have the decency NOT to publish the most obsequious email I have ever seen claiming that the victory is due to their hard work.

    Mr. Cooling – how naive do you really think your electors are? You did nothing to help anyone. If you were proud of what you were doing during the campaign, then you should have had the gall to stand up and be counted at the time – with those people that did the work and who do deserve the credit. The email you have written is disingenuous at best, and treacherous at worst.

    I sincerely hope that with regard to all three representatives, the voters memories are long, and unforgiving.

    Justin and David – if only you weren’t so hardworking, altruistic and honest, we could instead have asked you to stand as you at least believe in the things that matter.

  3. Jack Woodford says:

    As other contributors have commented on recently, one would hope that ‘collective amnesia’ does not take hold of the electorate between now and the local elections next May. Although the ‘big vision’ has temporarily disappeared, we still do know what ICL are planning for the future! A lone voice issuing from Ashford Borough Council has been that of Clr Peter Davison, from the rest of the elected representatives there has been a collective silence…maybe they had, or have no interest in what goes on outside their own wards, but if this massive development had gone ahead, it would have affected the entire Ashford Area. The Leader of Ashford Borough Council, made frequent statements that Clr Davison, was making political capital, or starting the election campaign,on the contrary he was making legitimate enquiries, regarding a development, that would have had a profound effect on the whole area.The last comment on the present situation must be ‘remain vigilant’, and remember in the comming months, what could have happened, or may even yet happen to us here in Wye or somewhere else!

  4. Ivan Warboys says:

    As a supporter of the Conservative Party I am ashamed, and deeply saddened at the incompetent and duplicious behaviour of our two local representatives to the borough and the county councils. Do they really think that they were doing us, the village, a favour by keeping so quiet on the monstrous scheme proposed by Imperial, aided and abetted by ABC and KCC, without any serious comment or objection? Needless to say neither candidate will get my vote when the time comes.

    And as to Imperial College what a wasted opportunity! They have squandered hundreds of thousands of pounds, left the Department of Agricultural Sciences in tatters with a few demoralised staff and missed an academic initiative on research on biofuels and other non food crops. The Deputy Rector, Professor Borysiewicz will not be receiving any honours or acclamation from his boss Sir Richard Sykes. No industrialists like financial failures.

  5. Steve says:

    The environment is one of, if not the most important issue in the world today. The local conservative representatives have demonstrated that they care little for the environment in which their electorate reside and therefore undermine the environmental credentials of their party as a whole.

    Yet another lost vote (at national and local level) of a Tory voter of the last 26 years. Independent enquiry into the conduct of the members of ABC and KCC who were associated with the concordat very much required.

  6. Ian Cooling says:

    Thank you both,

    You cover a lot of ground, ask some penetrating questions and make certain very worrying allegations. I hope you will allow me space to respond. In doing so, I aim to correct some factual inaccuracies, clarify what I have been up to and why – and show how that complemented the work of others. I follow your points in the same order.

    Point 1 – My statement that my business relationship with Imperial College ended in 2004 remains firm and unchanged. I do not know why they failed to cancel my e-mail address or my Spectrum logon, but I do recommend an FOI request for full details of my use of both, before and after my business relationship with Imperil ended. I have never had an office at South Kensington. That too can be verified.

    Point 2 – My statement that my first briefing on Alchemy was on 18 November 2005 also stands firm. As the full list that is quoted makes clear, it concerns administrative arrangements for a whole series of briefings and mailshots about the Concordat announcement on 9 December. The date of the list is the date of the list. It is not the date on which David Hill spoke with me nor I would guess, any of the others he was due to consult or brief.

    Point 3 – Your opening sentence for this point reads: “On Friday evening, you put round WFG just about the most smug email of your career, claiming the credit for ‘changing minds’ and squashing Wye Park”. Forgive me if I disagree most emphatically on this point, which is incorrect both in terms of fact and my intentions. That e-mail was not about me – it was a “Thank You” addressed to those who had played key roles in killing the project – including yourselves. I did NOT claim any credit whatsoever for myself. Nor did I use the words “squashing Wye Park” anywhere.

    The exact words I used were “More than a few people have asked why I was not more visible. The reality was that with the two of you (Ben Moorhead and John Hodder) so superbly effectively in action, there was simply no need for a third. My job was elsewhere with the long, slow business of changing minds”.

    I am more than slightly puzzled by any interpretation of these words that sees me claiming any credit in any way. Many members of WFG will have seen the full text of my mail and will be able to form their own judgement. I am, of course, also more than happy to relay the text to any one who has not seen it so they too can make up their minds.

    My response to the rest of Items 3 and 4 starts with my statement of one element of my role outlined in my Open Letter in March, when I explained what I was doing:

    “My professional training (as a diplomat) leads me to make sure that two-way lines of communications remain open to everyone who wants to be involved. I also aim to focus on areas of agreement, while not ignoring the differences. I close no doors.

    I shall continue to speak with villagers and I hope they will want to speak with me. I shall certainly make sure their views are heard. I have offered to meet with the members of the Wye Future Group and am happy to meet with other village groups too. I shall also continue to speak with Imperial College and the leadership, political and managerial, of ABC and KCC”.

    Like all local politicians, certainly at Parish and Borough level, I am a “part-time amateur”. I therefore try and play to whatever strengths I can bring to the job. After nearly 25 years as a diplomat and only three as Wye’s Borough Councillor, I saw any strengths I might have from the former feeding in to the latter. If in doing so, I managed to convince David Brooks Wilson that I was one of his most important contacts, then it could certainly be argued that I was succeeding – and that this was a positive for the village and not a negative. It also means that the answer to your closing question is probably “Yes”.

    With regards to my lack of visibility – from my time in the Army I know that one sure recipe for chaos is to have too many leaders. I truly believed – and continue to believe – that with Ben and John doing such a superb job, there really was no need for me to poke my nose in. Nor did I hear demands in the village that I should do so – I was better employed elsewhere.

    That said, I am not sure whether this means lack of visibility on the website, or in the village. Bearing in mind that this site is but one of quite a few lines I have to residents and residents groups, I believed it was important to work directly with WFG and the Parish Council and other village groups and individuals – giving my views when asked and hearing (and heeding) theirs. That is what I have been doing.

    But I have actually made a number of statements on the website too. This is what I said in March:

    “But where do I stand on Imperial’s “vision”? Like many I have spoken with, I can see real benefits in developing the increasingly woebegone campus at Wye, but not at any cost. I should welcome new, well-designed, environmentally-sound buildings on the brown field sites. I should want them to be built of local materials and be of a “look” and a scale that harmonises with the rest of the village. I should not welcome constructions that jar with their surroundings. I should be especially suspicious if the word “iconic” appears anywhere.

    I am not alone in welcoming the possibility of an upgrading for our roads to Ashford and Canterbury. However, I should strongly resist a hideous slash of asphalt across the countryside. We don’t want anything like the A 2070 as it drops down from the Weald near Ham Street and scars its way across the Marsh.

    But above all, I need to see and hear some specifics from Imperial before I decide. I need to know what it is I’m “for” or “against”. I’m attracted to the idea of Wye regaining and exceeding the position it once held in the academic world. I’m attracted to the idea of reversing the 20-year long seepage of jobs out of the village. I am not attracted to the idea that the price we have to pay should be discordant swathes of new housing. There are other ways of raising funds for the academic venture open to Imperial. They must be explored – and used.

    And I shall be watching like a hawk for any proposals about the AONB!”

    And this is what I said in June:

    “My position on the greenfield land is unchanged. To quote from an earlier posting of mine up here – What is and remains unacceptable to that same large majority (of the villagers), would be speculative money-making development on greenfield land within the AONB. And that is where my personal line is drawn too.

    I am certainly not a mindless supporter of Imperial – ask Imperial. I have criticised: 1. The Concordat. 2. The disastrous January meeting. 3. Their inept communications. 4. Their flawed consultation. 5. Their broken promises. Furthermore, I have regularly and strongly urged Imperial (most recently at the consultation meeting on 22 June) to totally abandon the idea of housing development on the greenfield site to raise funds. There are many, many other sources of funds available which must be explored and used”.

    So when I wrote as follows two weeks ago, it was not a last-minute conversion as some have alleged, but a consistent view sustained and broadcast over several months.

    “1. I can see real benefits in developing the increasingly woebegone campus at Wye, but not at any cost. Development on brown field sites only.

    2. Any new buildings should be well-designed, environmentally-sound and built of local materials. They should be of a ‘look’ and a scale that harmonises with the rest of the village.

    3. The volume of traffic now carried by our lanes to Ashford and Canterbury means they need up-grading – but only to Harville Road standard, not A28. No hideous slash of asphalt across the countryside from Junction 10A.

    4. I like the idea of reversing the 20-year long seepage of jobs out of the village. I do not like the idea that the price we have to pay should be discordant swathes of new housing tramping across the green fields of the AONB. There are other ways of raising funds open to Imperial and they must be used.

    5. I have serious concerns about the draft Wye policy document in the LDF. First – I see little value to the community of Wye that is not dealt with in the legislation. Secondly – (and particularly) its late addition to the Core Strategy after the public consultation had closed, but not consultation with Imperial.

    6. I am against any “science park” (or whatever it might be called this week) hosting manufacturing or other industrial processes.”

    Like everyone else, my thinking has evolved as the true and horrific scale of Imperial’s “vision” became clear and as new issues emerged such as the “Wye Policy” at point 5 above. I hope the above quotes show that the evolution is consistent.

    Of course, I certainly do not claim to have got everything right over the past ten months and with the benefit of hindsight, I would certainty have said and done some things differently. But hindsight was not available to any of us at the time

    With this in mind and looking to the future, I cannot emphasise too much the lessons I have learned from all this. I know I need to step up my efforts to talk with more people. I need to hear and heed those who want me to listen. I need to say what I think clearly and publicly, as well as privately. I need to let people know what I am up to and why, and so on.

    In turn, I do ask those who have concerns about my role and actions, now and in the future, to discuss them with me – to hear my side of the story and why I am doing what I am doing. My phone number is 812416 and my e-mail

    To move forward, I make an offer: Ben Moorhead has kindly said he would seek WFG agreement to my attending the next full meeting. The original intention was to discuss our next steps with ABC, Imperial et al. However, if the Group would like to do so, I’d be more than happy to discuss wider issues, especially my own role and actions to date and how they might evolve as we move to those next steps. If agreed, I would also arrange for a write up of the meeting to be distributed, as requested, to those who are not members of WFG or were otherwise unable to attend.

  7. David Hewson says:

    If I may play Connie Sachs here I would like to offer my own decode of this very long out-take from a lost version of Smiley’s People.

    You say…

    If in doing so, I managed to convince David Brooks Wilson that I was one of his most important contacts, then it could certainly be argued that I was succeeding – and that this was a positive for the village and not a negative. It also means that the answer to your closing question is probably “Yes”.

    For those who never got that far in your reply let me remind them of this point because it is crucial. Our closing question was…

    We know you’ll argue till the cows come home that you were never in the Imperial camp. But do you think it’s possible that David Brooks Wilson and his colleagues had, for whatever reason, somehow come to believe otherwise?

    So you agree that Imperial ‘probably’ believed you were in their camp, presumably with good reason since rampant, greedy developers in these situations would normally expect a local councillor to be on the side of their community. There are two problems with this from my point of view. I don’t think you were elected to play this kind of double game. And also, had Imperial won, you would quite easily have been able to turn round to us and say, ‘I did my best’. And then say the same to them.

    As the original article said, ‘Your constituents had the right to expect active, visible, unequivocal leadership.’ Thank you for confirming they didn’t get it. A very simple way to settle these things if you wish would be to make public all of your emails with officers of Imperial, details of your meeting with them, and notes of those meetings.

    At the last consultation panel, I gather, David Brooks Wilson greeted you in front of several people with the words, ‘You owe me lunch, Cooling.’ This would normally be the kind of comment made by someone who bought you lunch, and at his expense. If that is the case, perhaps you would care to clarify in any such disclosure who was there, what took place, who paid, and how many other such lunches have occurred over the last two years since the planning of Wye Park began.

    Since you are both a member of the executive of Ashford Council, which would have voted on including Wye Park in the core strategy, and its standards committee you might tell us whether such lunches have been declared too, as any gift or hospitality over the value of £25 must be, under the Code of Conduct.

  8. Jeremy Paterson says:

    Having lived in Wye for most of the first 25 years of my life, and now having an older son at Wye Primary, I am naturally delighted that the Wye Park vision has been destroyed. My family and I are amongst those indebted to all whose actions helped achieve this.

    Reading the “animated” discussions over the months between Ian Cooling and many other contributors, it is clear that many of the issues at the table will never be resolved via postings on this or any other website. A full independent inquiry (if sanctioned) in to ALL involved parties’ doings will hopefully clarify what happened and will allow us all to vote at the next elections with all relevant facts fresh in our minds.

    All I will say is this. I feel it is a little naive of those of you that elected Mr Cooling, knowing his past as an ex-army officer and diplomat, are expressing surprise that he has used his experiences and skills gained over the years now in his current role as councillor. I am not condoning his actions (whatever they were, good or bad) – all I am saying is that having been central to negotiations in previous careers that would have been of far greater political and possibly even international importance, it is of no great surprise to me that Mr Cooling has acted as he has done.

    Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and yes, perhaps I am being naive in believing anything (not everything, please note!) that any poltician says, but I am not in any way surprised over Mr Coolings claims. Whether this is upheld by an independent enquiry only time will tell.

    I shall, however, continue to vote in all elections as I have done in the past – and it’s not for a party of any of “The Usual Suspects”.

    Thank you once again to all involved in WFG, the Parish Council, save-wye and anyone else that I have failed to mention.

  9. Justin Williams says:

    Ian. Much as I am intrigued by your life as a double agent, it would be helpful if you were more straightforward when it came to quoting from emails sent as recently as the one you put round WFG on Friday. In your response to our article, you claim that you did not try to claim credit for changing minds and that:

    ‘It did NOT claim any credit whatsoever for myself’

    However, in that email you clearly stated:

    ‘My job was elsewhere with the long, slow business of changing minds’


    ‘I was able to nudge and edge thinking in our favour’

  10. Cliff Whitbourn says:

    Dear Ian,

    I am not a diplomat, never have been and never will be. But, what I am capable of doing is recognising the pitiful political squirming of someone who, it would appear, is incapable of sifting fact from fiction.

    If all of your meetings with Brooks-Wilson et al were a clever manoeuvre behind enemy lines, why not make public your notes, emails and minutes ( accepting that you find it best practice to alter the latter documents when you feel the need) and let your obviously misguided voters decide if you are Ian Cooling, agent extraordinaire, or a deluded councillor who would be best served by resigning now before it’s too late.

    Respectfully yours,

    Cliff Whitbourn

  11. Richard Bartley says:

    There should be nothing surprising in Cllr Cooling’s statement above…”I believed it was important to work directly with….. the Parish Council……giving my views when asked and hearing (and heeding) theirs. That is what I have been doing.” An apparently straightforward approach, but from the viewpoint of an individual member of Wye PC, Cllr Cooling’s statement is news to me.

    Though he did attend the February PC meeting to make a long statement explaining his near silence since 8th December, apart from that one instance, direct contact with the PC has been somewhat sparse. Where I have seen Cllr Cooling at other meetings concerning Wye Park, he has either remained silent, or his support for the PC’s five points has, until very recently, been too subtle for me to notice.

    On a related matter, the PC wrote to Cllr Cooling nearly a month ago, requiring an explanation for his actions on the day of the Oil Depot planning decision in June. I believe that the PC is still waiting for a reply. Perhaps one will appear in time for the PC meeting tomorrow, then we can all move on.

  12. David Hewson says:

    I have to say the introduction of espionage into this story does remind me that I have always been struck by the peculiar resemblance of one of the principal parties to Penfold, the sidekick of the well known bumbling spy Danger Mouse. Is it possible they are in some way related? If so, is it also possible…..? No, surely not…

  13. Ian Cooling says:

    Two responses an e-mail, a comment and a close.

    Yes David, all entertainment I receive or give on ABC business, irrespective of who is involved, is declared in the normal way. I’m pretty certain those declarations will be available as a matter of public record, as are my expense claims. My wider correspondence with Imperial and everyone else on this matter should also be available via FOI and indeed, may already have been requested.

    Separately, to echo Jeremy’s point above, having lived in Wye for over 35 years, my past careers as a diplomat and Army officer are certainly pretty well-known around the village.

    Yes Justin, I said what I said, but my point was to thank others who had helped me in that process. As a professional journalist, you will know that it is virtually impossible to be sure that a mind truly has been changed, let alone what changed it. I can certainly say I tried, but I make no claim to have succeeded.

    Those who have not yet seen the e-mail we are talking about, might like to have the full text in front of you. This was, as I say, a very personal “Thank You” addressed to Ben Moorhead and John Hodder, but looping in others too:


    I’d like to pay a very warm personal tribute to the pair of you for your leadership and all your hard work sustained over so many months for the good of Wye. More than a few people have asked why I was not more visible. The reality was that with the two of you so superbly effectively in action, there was simply no need for a third.

    My job was elsewhere with the long, slow business of changing minds. In this, I have two separate thanks to make, the first is to David and Justin. Without the steady drip, drip of information on the site and the final killer revelation of the PowerPoint presentation, my job would have been much more difficult and certainly taken much longer.

    My second thank you is to Richard Honey. In the latter stages, I needed to be fully on top of some pretty technical stuff. Richard’s patient and finely-crafted briefings meant that I was able to nudge and edge thinking in our favour. Without those hours together and at the screen, I would have floundered hopelessly.

    Finally a big, big thank you to those of you who wrote all those letters and e-mails, nearly two hundred of you at the final count. Such an overwhelming demonstration of the community’s views was, rightly, irresistible.

    Back now to the grindstone. Ben, Richard and I have work to do to make sure that we keep a firm eye on the LDF ball. There is much detailed work to be done as that grotesquely complicated process unfolds. Above all, we need to make sure that whatever is eventually put in place for Wye, will stand the test of time.” (ends)

    Separately, wider issues have been raised and understandably. However, as I have made clear elsewhere on the website, I am fundamentally uneasy about the whole concept of “trial by media”, whether that media is the press, TV – or a website. Judgments on such important matters need to be informed and impartial. It is for that reason that I have supported referral to the Ombudsman to cut through all the rumour, counter-rumour, accusations, conflicting information, disinformation and lack of information that is still in the air. It is my firm belief that such a process is now needed both in the interests of justice and also as a catharsis.

    All that said, I do hope that there are readers of this string who will home in on the closing paragraphs of my main submission – for that is where my key message lies. I acknowledge, without reservation, that I have certainly not got everything right over the past ten months and it was a good discipline to have Justin, David and all the others so readily to hand to point this out.

    But at least with me around, you have had one of The Usual Suspects up here to engage with. Others (no names, no pack-drill) have said I must be mad – and from time to time, I have to say I did feel like agreeing with them!

    Joking aside, I have definitely learned more than a few lessons as this unfolded and learned them well. I know there are things I need to do differently in the future – and I shall. This will be important as there is much work still to be done and I shall not be doing that work for ABC, KCC, Imperial or any others that can be added to that list. I shall be doing it for Wye – as I always have.

    So I’ll sign off now, with thanks to you and your contributors for keeping me on my toes so effectively over these past months.

    I’ll close with congratulation to everyone on a job well-done. And my very best wishes for an equally successful future – for yourselves and for Wye.


  14. Cliff Whitbourn says:

    Sorry Ian, it still doesn’t wash.

    The stunning silence maintained by your good self, on this whole ungodly matter, until the amazing wordage posted in the last few weeks, smacks of political connivance.

    Spare us all the ‘doing it for Wye’ nonsense.

    You nailed your flag to the wrong pole. Admit and resign.

  15. David Hewson says:

    So your constituents can find out about the briefings you gave about them to Imperial by putting in an FoI request to the college. Let me save them some time. We have two outstanding appeals against Imperial’s interpretation of the FoI and one with KCC over their binning of documents they said they’d release until Imperial ordered otherwise. An FoI appeal to the Information Commissioner currently looks set to last 18 months, which would, of course, take you well past the next borough elections.

    Here’s a better idea, Ian. Why not save us all a lot of time and fuss and turn over all that information yourself — emails, meetings, lunches, the lot — voluntarily, now, say to the Parish Council or Wye Future Group (we have published our last article here). In full please. I’d hate to have to point out omissions. After all, if there’s nothing to hide…

  16. Justin Williams says:

    Ian seems to be indicating that the subject is now closed and it is time to move on. But no amount of dissembling can disguise his failure to answer these questions:

    1) Will you make public all your correspondence with Imperial College since June 2004 including correspondence made in a personal capacity?

    2) What did you hope to achieve by encouraging representatives of Imperial with their plans in private, including working up proposals for building large numbers of houses on farmland, while giving the village the impression you were doing otherwise?

    3) Will you make public the contents of your 2005 and 2006 diaries?

    4) Have you ever received any hospitality from representatives of Imperial greater than the value of £25 in your time as a borough councillor. Have you declared this hospitality?

    These are extremely serious matters which your constituents deserve answers to, Ian. No amount of dissembling about “trial by media” is going to make them go away. The time for secrecy and opaque behaviour is over … it’s time to come clean.

  17. Richard Bartley says:

    David and Justin’s questions are not going to go away. Related questions have been in several minds for a long time and we need answers. May I open the bidding with Lot 1. Cllr Cooling’s email of 03.26 on the morning of 8th December 2005. He broke the news to Wye parish councillors thus:

    “Dear All,

    Those of you who take the Kentish Express may have seen the report in today’s issue on the signing of the “Wye Concordat” at the College in Wye on Tuesday, 6th December.

    The Concordat is a join undertaking by Imperial College, Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council to work together in delivering a £1 billion (yep – one billion pounds) relaunch of the Wye Campus over the next 15-20 years.

    This will involve the establishment of a world-class scientific learning and research institute to explore leading problems in science, engineering and medicine. An example would be the potential for non-food crops and turning “biomass” into clean and affordable bio-fuels and products. Associated with the research institute will be facilities for commercial “spin-off” companies, intended to bring the products of research to the market.

    I attach a copy of the press release on the announcement. Mail me back if you have any immediate queries. If I do not know the answer, I’ll get back to you as soon as I do……….”

    and so Cllr Cooling went on in the same enthusiastic tone. At no point did he express any reservation, nor did he present Imperial’s vision as anything other than a certainty. Nor did he pause to reflect that the vision’s impact may be anything other than wonderful for Wye. Cllr Cooling then added:

    “………I have seen my prime role in shaping the vision for this project, as being to make sure that the need to take account of local interests has been flagged up and heeded…..The mentions of the local community in the press release, are a direct result of my intervention….”

    before closing with the hard sell:

    “………..In the meantime, I suggest that we might start to think about putting together a community “Wish List” – specific to this project, but drawing on the work done by Linda Cobb and others last year. That should aim to define some of the benefits we as a community would like to see from the project – automatic access to sports and leisure facilities? Creation of a mini Arts Centre/Heritage Centre? Improvement of road access? Sorting out the level crossing? Creation of a “Gateway Centre” for one-stop access to public services? and so on.

    May we live in interesting times!


    Perhaps this is what passed for diplomatic language back in 2005. Certainly Cllr Cooling gives no sign in this email of bothering with the “long, slow business of changing minds”.

  18. Kerry Bethel says:

    “To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy” -David Lloyd George.

    And the other half of a diplomat’s art?

    “…..simply to waste time”. -Will Durant

  19. Merrilie McLeod says:

    Then clearly, Kerry, Mr. Cooling was more successful than we could possibly have imagined. He achieved full marks in both categories.

  20. sue powell says:

    Keen readers of save-wye should know that Dr Hilary Newport, the Director of Kent CPRE will be on the Politics Show on BBC1 on Sunday at 12 noon to discuss Ashford. Cllr Paul Clokie will also be on and Yvette Cooper, the Housing Minister is expected to put in an appearance as well.

    Best Placed for direct questions?

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