I thought it was time to consider where Rother District Council, the Friends of the Landgate, the Rye Conservation Society, the Museum and Rye Town Council had reached in trying to ensure essential repairs were carried out on the Landgate, in a personal view and as a leader of the Friends of the Landgate supporters group .
As you will have read recently, RDC offered £74,000 for essential repairs, provided Rye would match £7,000 of this total. The RTC agreed to underwrite this amount, on the understanding others would contribute. So far, there has been a promise of £3,000 from the Rye Fund and £1,000 from the Rye Conservation Society, The supporters of the Friends of the Landgate may also be able to contribute, with a firm offer in the process of being followed up.
Now, here’s the rub: RDC have not formally confirmed or released the monies. I am sure they have every intention of doing so, but the officer who worked so hard with the Friends of the Landgate and the other interested parties to make it happen, left RDC at the end of March 2018 and her work has been distributed, so I am told, among other members of the development team. This inevitably makes continuity of thought and subsequent action much more difficult. I am sure Councillor Lord Ampthill will be able to help us all with this, and look forward to seeing the results.
So, what are these essential, urgent repairs? They are based on the information provided in the report by John Bailey for Thomas Ford and Partners, undertaken in March 2016. They are:
1 Electrics attached to the flagpoles and surrounding structures to be sealed off
2 The flagpole and metal structure holding the electrics to be removed, leaving the other flagpole
3 Guano needs yearly clearance
4 Water running down inside walls to be diverted. This will include a check of the masonry to see if there are any loose structures.
This is only the start and there are repairs needed in two years, five years and in the long term. As it is more than two years since the report was written, these are now coming into play. Means of access has to be considered as well, as these could include road closure, refused by East Sussex County Council in the past, scaffolding, steeplejacks, cherry pickers, even.
Rye Conservation Society have clarified their offer in a very helpful comment from the new Chairman, David Bookless. “We feel that any work that is done should enable future work to be carried out to get the clock going and ensure safe access” He adds that a town appeal would be needed for funds for the clock, which he would support and so would I.
The original minutes of Tuesday February 6 2018, when RDC led a meeting to discuss the Landgate, indicate that no roof has been costed into the essential work, which seems to me to mean that there will be a need to redo these essential repairs again before too long. On discussing this more fully before writing this article, it became clear that work of any kind to construct a roof would be dependent on the views of RDC Conservation Officers and the Planning Department, the outcome of which appears debatable. I would be interested in knowing more about this aspect from our readers.
I also understand and to a level the Friends of the Landgate have always supported, the idea that the Landgate should remain a stabilised ruin. I know this remains the view of RTC, RDC and the Conservation Society. The Museum, which has had many and varied experiences of the challenges presented to charity Trustees of an ancient building, have contributed their knowledge. However, no feasibility study of the Landgate has ever been made, to explore the latest thinking in developing these kind of buildings.
Friends of the Landgate acknowledge that these works are a first step, but I can only say that, without a feasibility study, no one actually knows what might be possible, and as RDC want to rid themselves of the Landgate, new ideas on uses for it will be needed. One of our supporters suggested it should be gifted to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex! Now there’s a thought! A Royal visit? That would concentrate minds!
I am very grateful to RDC for supporting the Landgate with these monies and expect to see contractors carrying out the essential repairs. Without this, the safety of the landmark, at the entrance to the town, would be in more jeopardy, though I know the October 2016 report from Thomas Ford and Partners says it is stable. I would be a whole lot more confident if RDC would confirm and release the monies to start the work, and consideration be given to other aspects of future use. A roof? Definitely. A feasibility study? I think so. But I know others, for example, expert architects and surveyors, think otherwise. Finally, what happened about the Landgate Action Group, the draft terms of reference I am holding in my hands right now? Over to all of you!
Photo: Gillian Roder