The outgoing Rye Town Council may be holding a special meeting on Monday, April 29, just days before the election on Thursday, May 2 of a new council, to discuss the Rye Neighbourhood Plan (RNP), setting out the town’s future.
A referendum on whether to accept or reject the plan will not therefore be held on May 2 and may not even be held later in May to coincide with the European Parliament elections – if indeed these even take place.
Rye’s Planning Committee was due to meet that day anyway if there was enough business to discuss, but its meetings depend on whether anyone is making any planning applications, and on how many there are.
The timing of the referendum depends on the Independent Examiner’s report whose job is to ensure the plan is in line with existing national and local planning policies, and Rother District Council (RDC) has just published his final report.
The examiner has made a number of changes to the plan to ensure it is “sound” in order to enable it to proceed to the referendum stage, and Rye Town Council and Rother District Council were invited to comment on his draft report.
However it was made clear to them that they were not entitled to question his recommendations and should confine any comments to typos, inconsistencies etc.
The special meeting of the town council is to advise councillors on the more significant of his amendments, of which there are two.
Anthony Kimber, vice-chair of the Rye Plan’s steering group, who has led in much of the work on the plan, has worked closely with RDC planners at every stage, and has also used consultants to advise on the plan, is expected to be at the special meeting to advise the
In the meantime RDC planners are continuing with their pre-referendum internal preparations, but these may take some time. So there is no guarantee that the RNP (and the Ticehurst and Crowhurst NPs, which are at a slightly more advanced stage) will all be ready for their referendums to coincide with the European Parliament elections (if they are run) on May 23.
Apparently the examiner made the two “more significant changes” on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been provided to support the proposed policies – and it may be that Rother’s planners, Rye’s advisers and the town council assumed that the evidence was well known – except (apparently) to an outside examiner.
Other ways of taking forward, or rescuing, the “evidence-deficient” policies are being explored and considered in liaison with Rother and will be reported at the special meeting (if it takes place).
However the plan has successfully passed the examination stage without the examiner calling for a hearing, and the main thrust and intent of all the key development policies remain intact.
Nevertheless the council need to know what changes have been made to a plan, at the very last last minute, which has gone through many stages over a number of years, by someone who may not be familiar with the problems and needs, such as adequate parking, of historic towns in the 21st century.
Development decisions, such as the proposed BP garage on Udimore Road, are frequently challenged so it is important that the plan meets the town’s needs and is precise in its wording.
Image Credits: Rye Neighbourhood Plan.