On the face of it this proposal [for a new pedestrian river bridge and tunnel under the railway at Mill Bridge to replace the existing rail crossing – ed.] is a good idea, as it will improve the safety of pedestrians. I do have two main concerns, the first relating to the application itself, the second relating to the decision-making process for using public funding.
My first point. The documents submitted with the application are wholly inadequate. If I as an architect struggle to understand them, what hope for laypeople? There is no general arrangement plan, which would provide information on levels and gradients, nor is there a longitudinal section, so we cannot tell what the gradient of the path is and what implication that would have for less mobile people. The closed level crossing to the south-east side of the river is not included in the application site – why not?
There is no explanation as to how the height of the wall protecting the path underneath the bridge has been worked out, so there is a legitimate fear that the path is vulnerable to regular flooding. There is no information on whether the path or bridge are suitable for cycles, or a wider transport study to better understand the peak capacity requirement. Rother District Council should not be validating applications that are this poor.
My second point. There is within the Neighbourhood Plan a proposal for a new bridge and path to connect the schools and sports centre to Tilling Green, better known as the Rye Greenway and regularly discussed at town meetings. This has been costed at about £900,000 by East Sussex County Council. Even though ESCC currently holds £230,000 and Rother DC £45,000 towards the project, there is no realistic prospect of this project ever proceeding.
As some of you may be aware from recent national news coverage (and I’m slightly surprised this issue has not been covered in the local news!), ESCC is facing bankruptcy within three years unless services are cut to the bone. [We will be looking at this and the effect on Rye in a future issue – ed.]
Network Rail is publicly owned and funded, so who has made the decision that the bridge it is currently proposing at Mill Bridge, to achieve a marginal safety gain, is of a higher priority than the Rye Greenway bridge across the Tillingham River, at what one can assume is of a similar cost? Just as with our schools, there is a democratic deficit in the decision-making process, with our district councillors, county councillor and MP (all Conservatives, as is the Government) being utterly impotent or uninterested in how public money, precious as it is, is used locally