Ashford Council: They think it’s all over….

Long-term readers may remember that not long after the Wye Park pipedream collapsed in September save-wye decided to turn to the two elected bodies who’d been party to it and say, effectively: come on, folks. Now there is no plan to be secretive about why not let us have everything in your files concerning the project and your relationship with Imperial College?

We weren’t expecting full disclosure, naturally. Long experience of these two authorities and their scant regard for the Freedom of Information Act had convinced us that wouldn’t be realistic. But you’d think we’d get something, wouldn’t you? After all this was a scheme that caused the community of Wye and its surrounding areas to spend most of 2006 in a state of perpetual anxiety about the loss of the village and the precious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty around us.

Kent County Council’s response was relatively candid. You can see it summarised in the succession of stories carried here in November — you can trawl through them in our archives. We should, however, point out exactly what KCC say they will never ever make public about Wye Park. These key documents include:

  • A 14-slide Ernst & Young briefing paper
  • A 33-page ‘Outline Development Brief’
  • Leader’s handwritten notes with two A4 maps ‘with areas outlined’
  • A two-page chart entitled ‘Program for Planning (draft); Program for Build (draft)
  • Two A4 mapes entitles ‘Sites and Areas Assessed and Constraints’

All of which make you wonder about that perpetual claim, on the part of KCC and ABC, that this was ‘only a vision not a plan’. You can find the full official banned document list here.

But perhaps we should be grateful for KCC’s limited degree of candour. We now have the response from ABC to our request to open up the files on this controversial and abandoned plan to construct the largest development ever seen on an AONB in the UK. What exactly will Ashford Council tell its electorate about its involvement in the project now that the pipe dream, like so many others that ABC under Paul Clokie has embraced, is just one more torn-up would-be white elephant to park alongside the Discovery Centre and, not that the local papers have told you this so far, the ludicrous Learning Centre project which is in similar dire straits?

You can find the letter in full below. Here’s a summary of it: nothing we didn’t know already. Not a memo, not a note. Not a report, not an e-mail.

They really do think it’s all over. Do you think they’re right?

Ashford Borough Council FoI response

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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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One Response to Ashford Council: They think it’s all over….

  1. Justin Williams says:

    And it took Ashford council 40 days to respond to this request … double the time allowed under the Act. When we asked Ashford if it thought that flouting the law in such a way was acceptable, we were told that officers “understood our position”.
    Perhaps if its officers spent less time in la-la-land dreaming up ridiculous pie-in-the sky projects and concentrated on doing a good job for their taxpayers, Ashford might be held in less contempt. Perhaps, too, elected councillors should spend less time painting paving slabs shit brown and stop ingratiating themselves with avaricious property developers. Then they might have enough spare time to hold their officers to account and do the jobs they were elected to do.

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