We think Project Alchemy represents a failure of democracy and a scandal of governance of monumental proportions. Imperial may have been defeated, its grasping would-be property developers sent packing and its main proponent — the ominipresent David Brooks Wilson — now picking up his redundancy cheque from the college and casting around Whitehall for a job. But the conniving local officials who worked up Imperial’s monstrous plans in conditions of total secrecy for more than a year are still in place, their six-figure wages and final salary pensions — all paid for by you, the people whose lives their scheming would have ruined — secure.
If there is ever an inquiry into the behaviour of people like Pete Raine, Kent County Council’s director of environment and regeneration (pictured right in suitable attire), then it could do a lot worse than start with Item 65 in KCC’s latest release of documents. There may not be a single smoking gun when it comes to Wye Park but Item 65 is as near enough for jazz. It is a handwritten note by Mr Raine of a meeting involving himself, Sir Richard Sykes, Brooks Wilson, John McCready from Ernst & Young and Sandy Bruce-Lockhart and Alex King — then leader and deputy leader of KCC – plus Mike Pitt, then the chief executive at the county council. The document is undated but it is possible to deduce that it was scribbled long before the first concordat was signed in April 2005.
How? Because Mr Raine, who would already have known Brooks Wilson for some time thanks to his role as the Kent Ambassador who had nothing to do with Kent, has him down as David Willson (sic) without the moniker the Imperial man took when he supposedly became concerned about animal rights extremists during his early years with the college. And Pitt left his job during the summer for the excitement of Swindon. Hence, there is every reason to believe that this note is of a meeting that took place some time in 2004, before KCC had drawn Ashford Borough Council into the nest.
The first line on Mr Raine’s note is a bombshell, for it reveals the depths of the deception that was perpetrated on the people of Kent for nine months. It reads:
IC need development land in AONB. £100m worth
A single sentence that gives the lie to the public protestations that our public servants and their elected masters knew nothing of Imperial’s true intentions when it came to Wye until this website published the hideous masterplan at the end of this summer. It is the same figure that was presented to the college’s management board in June this year. It is proof, if any were still needed, that Raine and Lord Bruce-Lockhart were complicit in developing a scheme that would have destroyed not only Wye but also wrecked national planning law when it came to the protection of areas of outstanding natural beauty.
It now transpires, this was always a scheme designed to net Imperial barrow loads of cash from building houses on the Kent Downs AONB and our public servants knew all about it right from the start.
Little wonder, then, that Mr Raine chose to scribble ‘Highly Confidential!!!’ underneath. If this one had got out, then Imperial would have scuttled back to the Sykes’s Death Star in Kensington faster than you could have said ‘to put it in terms you’ll understand’.
And it doesn’t stop there. Mr Raine writes down the names of the four people he will approach to form a ‘small team’. They are Mike Bodkin and Stuart Gibbons from within his own department and David Hill, chief executive of Ashford borough council and Paul Clokie, that authority’s leader. Could this be the same Paul Clokie who in September, shortly before Imperial decided to cut and run having squandered £1million of public funds, put out this statement in response to our publication of the map showing 250 acres of housing:
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 which incorporate large scale residential enabling development on greenfield AONB land.
Perhaps Cllr Clokie simply forgot those 12 months he spent working up Imperial’s plans. Or perhaps here he was subtly admitting that he knew about the plans but, in signing the concordats, somehow hoped to avoid ‘working up’ them up. Or perhaps he simply did not pay much attention during all those Project Alchemy meetings he attended and somehow ended up signing two documents, the contents of which he wasn’t much bothered about.
You can read Pete Raine’s note here