Finally time for a bypass?


The future of Rye may be in jeopardy.

Is it not time to reconsider the once proposed bypass, first conceived of in the 1990s? I am soon to celebrate fifteen years of being a proud resident of this medieval citadel town. Although I do not hail from these streets of cobbles and buildings steeped in history with architecture dating back to Queen Elizabeth, I have the bug that is contagious amongst those who visited then decided to stay. I genuinely care about this jewel in the East Sussex countryside and want, like so many visitors and residents alike, for its future to be secured.

The ancient Cinque port town of Rye has an abundance of architectural styles and exemplifies building traditions that have changed with the passage of time. This includes medieval arches, our very own castle, and the almost hidden monastery (not to mention Mermaid Street), through to the ultra-modern industrial look of the town houses recently built in Rock Channel. Taken as a whole, there is no wonder why Rye has so many visitors seeking an interesting day out completed with a meal in one of the abundant pubs or restaurants.

This is the modern day traffic that fans of Rye accept as long as it is managed sympathetically. It could be argued that a park and ride scheme would be a useful development to enhance the visitor experience while reducing the impact on residents,  perhaps a debate for future consideration. In the meantime, it is the traffic passing through as part of an onward trip that justifies immediate consideration and in particular
large haulage traffic.

Originally, a bypass was proposed in the 1990s to take indirect traffic away from both Rye and Winchelsea, it is difficult to locate specifics but a tunnel under the river Rother was included in the proposal. Even then, almost thirty years ago, it must have been considered that the amount of traffic passing through these ancient towns was unsustainable. The road network through and around Rye was conceived at time when horse drawn coaches were the norm.

Certainly, no consideration had been given to leviathan-like lorries and their ability to negotiate a medieval infrastructure.

Other lesser towns have risen to the challenge and succeeded in the delivery of a bypass, overcoming the many obstacles for the benefit and longevity of their towns. It is not the intention of this writer to propose possible solutions to the construction of a bypass or even give consideration to a possible location. The authorities are in the best position to do that. Undoubtedly, debate and discussion on the matter are now well overdue.

Image Credits: John Minter .

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  1. The matter is certainly overdue. I bought my house in Udimore Road seven years ago, and have seen the volume of huge trucks roaring up and down this two-lane road increase dramatically. British Gypsum and (regrettably) Jempsons are among the worst offenders. Crossing the road means taking your life into your hands every time. Ancient towns in Europe e.g. in Italy, have bypasses to keep heavy traffic away from town centres to avoid damage to buildings and the general “tone” of the place. Surely Rye deserves the same consideration?

  2. Steve Powell is right to bring this question to the fore again. Of course we need some kind of bypass before the heavy commercial leviathans completely ruin our town.
    I have lost count of the times I have suggested a park and ride scheme, (not a complete solution but a bit of sticking plaster), to ease congestion.

    My family came to Iden/Rye over 30 years ago. My husband was born and brought up in Rye. We are both saddened to see this gem of a town become totally traffic -ridden both in the town and on the A259.

    A bye-pass has to be the ultimate solution, but even if the authorities start today, it will not happen for abou10 years ! So, surely, an immediate Park and Ride can only help.

  3. Does Rye need a by-pass? Obviously the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The Folkestone-to-Honiton route was given a statutory existence by the 1946 Trunk Roads Act but has failed to materialise, even though the amount of traffic along the south coast is probably more than 10 times that which was envisaged long ago.

    Do the residents of Rye and the local area want a by-pass? Probably 8/10 do, so long as it does not pass close to their property, which immediately creates another problem.

    Will Rye get a by-pass? Not a chance. Although why did an oil company want to build a fuel station just outside of the town on Udimore Road, do they know something we mere mortals are not privy to?

    The law of diminishing returns comes into play for a venture such as this. Rye is so far from the centre of finance in this county, Lewes, that by the time expenditure for our area is discussed there is no money left (for anything). Uckfield which is a similar size to Rye has a by-pass, Maresfield about the size of Winchelsea has a by-pass, East Hoathly which is even smaller has a by-pass – but they are much closer to Lewes, so appear to get preferential treatment.

    When the Gateway Road in Hastings, which will link Queensway to the A21 at the Harrow, is finally opened the traffic on the A28 through Westfield and the B2089 through Udimore will increase dramatically, thus bringing more heavy vehicles along Cinque Ports Street and Landgate. Perhaps, just maybe, this might concentrate the minds of those who deign to make decisions such as considering a by-pass for Rye.

  4. Sadly like every bit of development in this town,out of the woodwork comes so many always with an excuse,why the powers to be shouldn’t do this or that, we lost the chance of a Rye bypass 30 years ago,thanks to the nimbys,most who have passed on now, we lost the chance of a second supermarket, on 2 occasions,one at slade yard, and the other on the ferry road site, now people are moaning about traffic congestion, once the new development takes place, just like the marina that was turned down on a brown field site, and then valley park took its place on a green field site,the mind boggles, nowonder the councils take little notice of what people say in Rye, as the excuses are manufactured when it suits.

  5. In the face of traffic, is the question, as Steve, Sheila, Helena and Rod would have it: ‘How do we accommodate the traffic?’ I would say not. Instead the right question might be: ‘Why do we need the traffic in the first place?’
    The carbon emissions from vehicle transport are huge, on top of that we have air pollution and noise pollution. Vehicle tyres are the biggest source of plastic pollution in our rivers and seas. Roads are dangerous to humans and to wildlife. Ten million birds and a million animals are estimated to be killed on Britain’s roads every year. Roads are also staggeringly expensive and often only displace the problem, they rarely if ever resolve it. Roadbuilding is very damaging to biodiversity and the wider environment, as well as to communities. Driving itself is a frustrating, wasteful and expensive experience for many. And to boot, roads are almost invariably ugly.
    In a sane, sustainable society, the answer must be to reduce the traffic. There are so many ways of doing this: improved public transport, which needs to be convenient, frequent, reliable and affordable; improved infrastructure for walking and cycling; car pooling and car sharing; video conferencing; working, living and shopping in close proximity by better planning and provision of services; changing the way goods are distributed, including short sea shipping; consuming only what we need; using local goods and service providers. I could go on.

  6. I agree with Dominic, Rye does have a traffic problem, but the solution is not more roads, but less traffic. Next time you buy something, consider where it was made – local produce means less traffic.

  7. I have some sympathy with the comments made by Dominic and Mike. I made comment in Rye News (30 January) advocating a traffic-free High Street and Citadel area, but even to enjoy that people have to get to Rye in the first place.

    Dominic refers to ‘improved public transport, which needs to be convenient, frequent, reliable and affordable’ which immediately brings us back to the reason why there is so much unnecessary traffic passing through both the centre of the town and the periphery – the lack of a by-pass, the excuse being that is a lack of money to build one. The reason for that is, as mentioned above, that we are too far away from the centre of finance.

    There is a half reasonable train service from Rye to both Ashford and Hastings but no direct bus service to Ashford. Compare that with the bus service from Eastbourne to Brighton – one every ten minutes! To improve the bus and train service in this area would require vast amounts of money, the same money that cannot be found for a by-pass.

    I provide a service to independent schools for which I have to be on site, some of these schools are 40/50 miles away. There is no way that I could get there by public transport, even leaving very early in the morning, then doing a day’s work and returning home late in the evening. Personal transport is a necessity not a luxury.

    Fortunately we do not live in a world where everything is regulated and ordered for the benefit of the whole, we all have different needs, desires and aspirations which, on occasion, will conflict with the interests of others. The best we can do is to reduce the detrimental effect of our behaviour as best we can, in the hope that a balance can be achieved.

    A by-pass for Rye would make it a desirable place to live, but unfortunately it will never happen, traffic will not be directed away from the town, the bus and train services will not improve to any substantial degree, the status quo will remain.

  8. Some people may think a by -pass for Rye will never happen,maybe not in the lifetime of many who post in Rye News, but whether its in the next 30 or 40 years it will happen,we have an inadequate railway running through the town,and over the years plenty of talk about dualling and electrifying which i don’t think will ever happen,every other week it seems closed and buses have to take passengers on the poor road infrastructure from Hastings to Ashford, and people talk about public services to visit our town,they must be living in cloud cuckoo land,and if visitors had to rely on these services, the town as a tourist attraction,would die overnight.if they are not going to upgrade the railway line put a road in its place, by-pass solved.

    [Note: This comment has been very slightly edited to meet our guidelines]

  9. Of course in an ideal world a bypass would be great But as many of you said the money is not there.Or so they tell us, I live in fishmarket Road And it might be an idea to reduce the speed limit to 20 miles an hour.As I’ve seen people who cross the road come close to Being knocked down.

  10. I’m at a loss to understand why some of you moved to Rye relatively recent and think you’ve discovered something new, I was a truck driver in the 80’s and it was a problem then, Ryers knew it, the council knew it and the roads agencies knew it.
    Plans and routes were discussed at length and everyone was happy for it to go ahead as long as they couldn’t see it.


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