Monday, November 20 2017

Published on July 13 2017. Opinions
Landgate – no more excuses
Rye's medieval Landgate

Landgate – no more excuses

Back at the beginning of May, we published an update of the situation relating to the restoration and upkeep of the Landgate. At that time our Rother councillor, Lord Ampthill, had extracted a timetable from the relevant department but everything was on hold as the officers concerned were fully engaged, we were told, dealing with the forthcoming Camber drownings inquest.

The pipes disappear into the building where we were not allowed to follow

A couple of weeks after our update a cleaning team was back in the building, once again subjecting the 700-year-old brickwork to high pressure water jets to clear out the accumulation of pigeon poo since the last time this operation was done. However, although the clean-out may well have been effective (Rye News was not allowed in to see), no effort has been made to put a temporary roof on or to seal up the other areas where the pigeons have been gaining access, so the work of the cleaners is already being undone.

The inquest is now over, with Rother being largely cleared of blame following a verdict of misadventure, so there is no longer any excuse for continuing to mark time on the Landgate. 

The survey, carried out by specialist architects, and on which Rother have been sitting for far too long, now needs to be published without further delay. Rother say that they and their architects are “actively pursuing” a funding route with Historic England, but have been silent on this, too, for several months. We deserve to know whether this “active pursuit” is bearing, or is likely to bear, any fruit, and if not, what are the other alternatives. Rother also need to be talking to Rye Town Council about transfer of ownership – and that means transfer of freehold  not the 99-year lease that they have mentioned and on which they will doubtless try to extract an increasing amount of ground rent. Rye Town Council, itself, needs to be urgently considering who is best to take over ownership. Should it be the Council, on behalf of the Town, or would another body, set up for the purpose, be a better solution?

An ancient monument left to be a playground for pigeons and weeds

Either way, it would seem that the important thing is to get the building out of the clutches of this sit-on-their-hands, do-nothing district council as soon as possible. One of the problems, of course, is that of the 38 elected councillors, 18 of them represent areas of Bexhill. Add to that number a few more representing nearby villages and who know on which side their bread is buttered, and there is no way that a motion representing interests outside the Bexhill area will ever be successful unless those from Bexhill want it to be, regardless of how hard our own representative councillors might try. In the case of the Landgate, the relatively small amount of money that should have been spent over the years to maintain it (but never was), was clearly regarded as far less important than the flower beds on a Bexhill roundabout.

Now is the time for our own Town Council to step up to the plate. They need to start thinking about future ownership as well as ways, perhaps, of making the building financially viable in the years to come. They need to start, through encouragement and support of our own Rother Councillors, to put pressure on Rother to release the survey report, reveal the progress of their discussions with Historic England and to begin talks about ultimate repair and maintenance funding together with transfer of ownership. If Rye does nothing, then Rother will do nothing and we will still be talking about this when part, or all, of the structure finally collapses.

 

Photos: Rye News library

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