The public is invited to a consultation/exhibition on Saturday, September 22, on the proposed arts foundation complex and public riverside walkway at Rock Channel in Rye at the former auction rooms, now renamed Bridge Point Studios.
And indeed the new complex had a “pop-up trial” in June with a fundraising concert for Rye Harbour’s Discovery Centre.
Rye’s MP Amber Rudd says in her recent newsletter that: “Martello Developments seeks to transform the Rock Channel by making its banks more visitor friendly.
“It hopes to achieve this objective with the creation of spaces for riverfront cafes, restaurants and mixed residential development.”
And Martello has bought land in the Rock Channel area , as well as on Winchelsea Road (facing Strand Quay), as well as land on the Rye Harbour side of Rock Channel near the Jehovah’s Witnesses hall – with very large “keep out” notices.
However I am told they have bought that land to protect it from developments and have no plans to develop it themselves – but more “howevers” follow.
The road off South Undercliff (St Margaret’s Terrace) into the Rock Channel area opposite the Simply Italian restaurant is already problematic as it is a turning off the A259 which carries heavy traffic towards Dover and which frequently jams up.
That road into Rock Channel is effectively a cul de sac with access to Shipyard Lane and the other end of Rock Channel being only a narrow footpath alongside the allotments with a possibly dangerous exit on to Fishmarket Road.
So the Rock Channel road is already busy with traffic to and from Jempson’s Yard and the recent homes built at Rock Channel Quay – and maybe traffic lights are long overdue at that junction!
I am told Jempson’s may help in future with some parking when events take place at the Studios, but most people may have to walk in, and access is clearly an issue.
At present, major events – ranging from meetings and talks to plays, concerts and opera – principally take place in Rye College’s theatre or St Mary’s Church or Rye Community Centre and (apart from parking) two access issues need to be considered.
Anyone who attended (for example) one of the recent jazz concerts in St Mary’s will know that a lot of kit has to be brought in – staging, instruments, amplifiers, lighting etc – and more examples of that can be seen during the current Rye Arts Festival.
Access is also required for the elderly and infirm and, while for St Mary’s there are drop-off points outside Fletchers at the top of Lion Street or by the war memorial in Church Square for the choir entrance, getting vehicles in and and out is never easy and Martello
appears to want to operate in a very cramped space.
Parking, as ever in Rye, is always a problem, and I wonder whether any of the current parking spaces in Winchelsea Road may actually be reduced as Martello’s plans develop.
As far as making Rock Channel’s banks more visitor-friendly the Town Council had to press hard for riverside access to be maintained in front of their first new homes (see top picture).
And now it has been, with a not particularly attractive black Tarmac path across the grass, which may or may not be swallowed up by some tides.
Despite reaching this public path from an open gateway and ramp this week I was chased off by an indignant builder who claimed it was “private property”.
The Environment Agency may also disagree with some of Martello’s riverside plans because of flood risks and their specific “flood protection” requirements relating to any development may or may not be visitor friendly. And there are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in this riverside area.
It is also arguable that, if further “high-rise” homes go up, that much of the Rye Harbour bank of Rock Channel will no longer be visible from the Citadel and therefore low-rise development, only, should be allowed there.
So, in theory, a new arts centre sounds nice (though existing venues may lose much-needed revenue) provided it tackles the access problems. But there is an old, but much-used saying “Beware of Greeks bringing gifts”.
Image Credits: John Minter.