Last week we were able to report that, finally, Rother District Council (RDC) had issued a timetable for a decision on the future of the Landgate. On the face of it, this is good news and credit to Councillor Lord Ampthill who had promised Rye News that he would push for such a timetable to be produced. However, it was noticed that amongst the list of forthcoming events was a further cleaning of pigeon residue to be carried out, followed by “pigeon proofing” the building to prevent a further poo build-up.
This begs a question: over two years ago high pressure jets were used to clear out the structure. These were operated by a contractor who, although experienced in this type of equipment, admitted at the time that the company involved had not worked on a building of the Landgate’s antiquity before. The result was a clean interior but also a damaged one (At the time, Rye Town Council (RTC) member Andy Stuart presented RDC Councillor Lord Ampthill with a chunk of stone that had been washed out of the building. How much more was also washed out and how much damage was done – we have yet to be told). Having cleaned the place, why did not Rother at that time pigeon proof it? Yes it would have cost them money and we know that they don’t like spending money on Rye, but it would have saved them the cost of a second clean-up (also using high pressure lances, we are told by a RTC councillor) and putting a roof on and closing up the holes in the walls would almost certainly have cost less then than it will do when they finally get round to it.
The answer, of course, is that having done the clean-up they hoped to be able to get away with spending the same amount on maintenance as they had done in previous years – and how much was that?
Absolutely nothing. A fact they refused to admit until a freedom of information request forced it out of them.
In August last year we conducted an interview with the Chairman of RDC. During the course of that interview the question of floodlighting the Landgate came up. As one of the town’s major assets we should surely display it to maximum advantage for our visitors. He didn’t see why something shouldn’t be done about that and promised to take it up with the council officer concerned. The result was an exchange of emails that we published at the foot of that interview. It was patently obvious from the tone of the council officer’s reply that nothing was going to be done, nor would it ever be done.
This attitude presents a problem. For no matter what promises are now made, however many timetables are produced, are RDC to be believed in anything they say? Regardless of any involvement by English Heritage or the Lottery or a possible Friends of Landgate organisation, Rother are going to have to come up with a good chunk of cash to get this started and this, we know, they are not going to like doing.
So where do our own Town Council come in. Rye does not own the Landgate, Rother does, and as long as that situation exists RDC, regrettably, remain in the driving seat. However RTC do have the ability to make a nuisance of themselves. A timetable has been set out and it is up to our councillors to ensure that Rother keeps to it. There will be negotiations over transfer of ownership and our councillors must decide on what is best for Rye and accept nothing else from Rother. After all, Rother is desperate to offload this chunk of expensive stonework, so Rye starts in a strong position.
This means they need to start making their plans, deciding on options, ensuring that they are kept up to date with talks between Rother, the conservation architects and English Heritage – indeed they should be included any any discussions. They must also ensure that the architects full report is just that, a FULL report and not heavily redacted as the earlier one was. Doubtless a special Landgate Committee will need to be formed which would probably also benefit from members outside the council.
But it is no good waiting until Rother decides on our behalf what has to be done. Rye Town Council needs to be dealing with this now.
Photos: Rye News library