Referendum in balance

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The Rye Neighbourhood Plan

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
council.

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.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Leaving aside speculation about when a referendum on the Plan could take place, Rye should be pleased to hear that the External Examiner has reported positively. After some intensive work between him, the Steering Group and Rother Planners the recommendation is that we move to Referendum subject to some amendments. Most of these are detail but two – removal of the higher parking requirements for new developments and the listing of green spaces (not the statutory allotments) – require more evidence. The door remains open for Rye Town Council to revert to these at the first review.

    Subject to Rye Town Council approval on 29 April we will move forward to clearing the final hurdle (processing through Rother Council) before a Referendum, to be organised for Rye constituents as soon as possible by Rother District Council.

    Many in Rye are aware of the importance of having an agreed plan which sets out priorities for years to come and provides financial advantages to the Town. Therefore, after over 5 years of work to reach a consensus within the Community, by 4 mayors, around 100 Councillors and citizens, and with contributions from many groups, Rye Neighbourhood Plan has passed examination without the need for a public hearing. Yes, there are some final adjustments but none that in our view affects the main intent or key development policies.

    With a job not yet quite done, we will continue to work with Rother Planners to ensure that the Plan is ready for Referendum at earliest opportunity.

    Anthony Kimber PhD
    For the Rye NP Steering Group

    http://www.ryeneighbourhoodplan.org.uk

  2. Most of the development areas appear to be on the flood plain.
    It would be interesting to know what predictions for sea level rise both Rother planners and the Neighbourhood Plan team are working on.
    Updated forecasts could be announced soon and it is unlikely to be good news.
    .

  3. As a member of the Southern Region Flood and Coastal Committee I am well prepared to discuss both flood risk around Rye and the future impacts of sea level rise and risks from tidal surge. As planners we have had to satisfy higher authorities and the Examiner that we have made proper assessments. Our work is covered in the documents which support the Plan. Many of the sites allocated in the Plan are “brownfield” and as such benefit from the existing flood protection covering over 1000 homes and dwellings already at risk within the Parish.

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