Project Alchemy … the legacy

The smoke has finally cleared after the battle of Wye Park but the fallout from Imperial’s shattered vision litters the field. It’s almost six months since Prof Sir Leszek Borysiewicz announced that the college was scrapping its plan to destroy a large part of Kent’s most beautiful environment and that it would not look for an alternative.

If anybody hasn’t yet noticed, Wye College is gone. Its departments are closed or moved to South Kensington, its professors redundant or relocated, its happy and noisy population of red-faced agriculture undergrads a distant memory. For the people of Wye, this is the real legacy of Project Alchemy: the wanton destruction of an ancient institution by a small group of academics and businessmen located in a steel and glass building 60 miles away.

But the Wye Park scandal has also hurt those most closely associated with it, too, and some of them very badly indeed. The time for recrimination is, we hope, past and we don’t take any pleasure in the effect this disaster has had on the careers of its promoters. Yet, just one year ago none of us — least of all David and me, back then still trying to find out how to be journalists again — could have forseen how things would turn out. Continue reading

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SAVED is now available for pre-order

Saved for sale

I’m delighted to say that we’ve reached the stage where you can now order a copy of SAVED, the book of the Wye campaign, for immediate despatch on release date on April 7. But please only do this if you can’t be in the village around this time. We are planning a launch event for that day, Easter Saturday, which will be a farmers’ market too. And there will be books on sale in the village after too. So if you’d prefer a signed copy and a chat please come along and see us on the day.

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More news on that book…

SavedI hope to be able to bring you firm news of publication dates and launch details for SAVED, the book on the Wye campaign shortly. If you want to make sure you get it all first you can now sign up for a free occasional newsletter which will deliver it by e-mail.

To get this just drop by the page on my own web-site and fill in the form — you can easily unsubscribe there too. Details of the book will be published on this page from now on. Here is a preview of the latest cover, with a beautiful photograph by Steve Bloom.

For more information head off here…

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More rubbish from your local newspaper


I thought I’d seen everything when it came to crappy journalism and the Kentish Express. But today’s issue really takes the biscuit for the paper that never saw fit to cover the Wye Park story with any degree of dedication, or even print the horrifying development plan which we revealed here back in August.

Before any of you begin to believe there’s a grain of truth in the above drivel may I please point out the following…

  • The book on this sorry saga which appears in April is entirely fact, not fiction. I wouldn’t dream of novelising a story which I regard as deeply serious and a continuing scandal, not least because of its suspiciously dismal coverage in the local media.
  • save-wye was never ‘the villagers’ main mouthpiece’ during this turbulent period, nor did we seek to be. That was the job of Wye Future Group and they did it with great dedication and a lot of hard work.
  • No-one from the KE contacted me about this story before putting this rubbish into print. Had they done so, I would have made clear all of these above points and anything else that puzzled them.
  • As most of you will know already, neither of us actually lives in Wye. We’re up the hill, not that that means we care any the less.

‘Turning fact into fiction’ seems a very appropriate headline for this story indeed. In fact it could be applied to a great deal of what passes for journalism in the Kentish Express. They did spell our names correctly, though, which is something I guess.

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save-wye the book… coming your way soon

What it won't look likeThe story of the fight to defend Wye against avaricious development and local authority neglect is a remarkable one. I’ve been thinking for some time that there ought to be some way in which it was recorded beyond this web-site, in a succinct and linear fashion for people who would like to sit down and read it at length away from the evil electronic glare of the computer. Something called a ‘book’ seemed the most appropriate medium.

I’m pleased to say that the first draft is now complete and arrangements are under way to have it published, hopefully by April, in time to give people something to ruminate over in the run-up to local elections. The cover you see on the right is for illustrative purposes only and shouldn’t be taken as anything other than an indication of the kind of book it will be.

Continue reading

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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.

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Those nasty people at save-wye are at it again…

Picture 1-7 The Kentish Express has resolutely refused to cover any of the latest scandalous revelations about how our councils clubbed together with Imperial College to try to destroy Wye. But it can still find time to let people take stupid pops over the biggest environmental victory seen pretty much anywhere in the United Kingdom this year. And this week, I’m proud to say, the target is none other than me!

A few weeks ago a self-publicising academic called Professor Richard Scase was quoted at enormous length over two separate articles in the KE delivering what I and many others thought was an extraordinarily insulting and inaccurate broadside against the people of Wye. In it he decried us all as backward, selfish Nimbies motivated by self interest at the expense of the economic well-being of the county as a whole.

Clearly, then, he didn’t understand the first thing about what had actually happened over Wye Park, or had read any of the documents — Imperial’s own — leaked here which outlined the college’s real intentions. Today I find myself labelled a ‘psychological bully’ and an enemy of a ‘free and democratic’ society in a letter he’s written to the KE replying to my original missive pointing out the hapless chap doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I have written a brief rejoinder to this strange little item but given the paper’s recent record when it comes to things that matter I’ve no idea whether it will appear.

What certainly won’t feature in its pages is a little more background on Richard Scase. For this, please read on, since it’s proof once again that we live in a county where who you know is a lot more important than the hopes and wishes of the electorate.

Continue reading

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