Lost in transit: the e-mail mystery deepens

Update: No, these aren’t all the e-mails. See foot of article.

We’ve a lot to be grateful for to the Freedom of Information Act around here, though I must say our public bodies have certainly started to tighten the screws on their responses since they realised how much how hot water it can get them into. Yesterday’s release of e-mails between Wye borough councillor Ian Cooling and Imperial College is a case in point.

We asked for all e-mails between these parties, and all documents, information and e-mails about this site. What we got was the Word file we published yesterday and nothing about ourselves on the grounds that the cost of searching all the many e-mails that mention us would be beyond the limits set by the act.

So are these all the e-mails between Councillor Cooling and Imperial? Funnily enough, no. Here’s one the college and Councillor Cooling, who was asked to approve yesterday’s release, appear to have forgotten. Or perhaps lost along the way…

At the beginning of June Councillor Cooling’s sources clearly told him something was up. Over the first two weeks of that month Imperial would put Wye Park into cold storage while approving the massive plan for thousands of homes that was eventually revealed here. Ever curious he sent this e-mail.

From: ian cooling [mailto:ian.cooling@invictanet.co.uk]
Sent: 05 June 2006 10:48
To: Brooks Wilson, David C
Subject: Meeting?

Hi David,
I gather that decision-time is looming with key meetings the middle of this month and next. Any value in us meeting before/after either?
Regards,
Ian

It didn’t do him much good. Here was the reply from David Brooks Wilson.

Dear Ian,
Many thanks for your email below – my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
I am slightly mystified at your comments as there is no deadline looming on my calendar at the moment in relation to Wye. As you may know we are going through a process of putting together the masterplan which does involve internal discussion. Once we have that masterplan and it is fully costed, a decision will be taken on whether to proceed with the planning application. Undoubtedly our programme provides for full consultation in the lead up to the development of that plan with dates that are already fixed and known in our respective diaries.
Always happy to have a word over the telephone, in the meantime we are proceeding apace.
Regards,
David

Funny there was no deadline looming, given that on June 12 the college rubber-stamped a highly detailed 57-page blueprint for turning Wye into a small town, with its own office neighbourhood, bio-fuels refinery and homes stretching almost as far as Brook. If you’ve forgotten what that looked like, you can refresh your memory here.

But that, you see, is the problem with equivocal positions, as the Kentish Express ought to know by now too. When people regard you as their tame creature they don’t give you privileged access to anything. They just use you then drop you like a brick the moment your purpose is over. Ian Cooling’s months of chat with David Brooks Wilson — which went far beyond a few e-mails — didn’t even win him a sly hint that the big decision was about to arrive. What a shame.

I’m sure this had nothing to do with the fact that this e-mail exchange mysteriously disappeared from the ‘full’ list of all such messages released by Imperial yesterday. And, since the sporadic acts of house-keeping you have seen around here of late are aimed at producing as full an account of events as possible, I’m happy to provide a copy so that both parties may update their records accordingly.

You do wonder, though. Are there perhaps some more e-mails that never quite made it into the release list? I asked Imperial. They have just come back and said, ‘These were the only e-mails that had been retained. If you have a copy of another e-mail (or there are any others that Councillor Cooling may have) nether (sic) Professor Borysiewicz or Mr Brooks Wilson have retained a copy.’

In other words these are only the e-mails that haven’t been deleted. Reassuring, don’t you think?

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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 Lost in transit: the e-mail mystery deepens

  1. Edward S Burgess says:

    Whichever of Councillor Coolings attributes “inspired” the voters who elected him, it would seem common sense/administration was not his greatest in respect of the Freedom of Information Act ! As you say, let’s see the next ABC election results.
    On the other hand Brooks Wilson’s response has all the markings of someone who has, perhaps, been there before ! Far be it for anyone to suggest that any cynic amongst us should dig further !
    Scurrilous thoughts !

  2. Justin Williams says:

    All this could be cleared up and without rancour if Cllr Cooling decided to come clean once and for all and release all email, letters and notes of meetings held with College officials since June 2005.

    His constituents are entitled, at the very least, to an explanation for his behaviour and why he chose to support Imperial’s plans in private while adopting an ambiguous position in public.

Comments are closed.