Birth of a new pressure group

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Members of the former Campaign for a Democratic Rye have voted unanimously to transfer their funds to CDR’s heir and successor, the newly formed Campaign for Action in Rye. At a meeting on Wednesday February 18 guidelines for this future pressure group were drawn up, to be discussed and developed through three further open meetings at the Rye Club over the next month.

The former chair Alan Bolden began by asking Jean Floyd and John Hart to summarise the large number of suggestions sent in by Rye citizens following the previous meeting.  They gathered under two headings:

  • How to make Rye a more attractive place to live in and visit
  • How to improve and protect Rye’s historic and communal  infrastructures that have been so grossly neglected over many years

Every submission agreed the need to support all town activities and to link with the many existing organisations already working for Rye and her citizens – from the town council, the neighbourhood plan, the Rye Partnership, the community bus and the Tilling Green Residents Association, to – among many others – Rye News, the new town  steward, the allotments, the annual bonfire, the various sports clubs,  the Transition Town and Rother Environmental Groups.

There had been numerous offers of skills, assets and labour, from finance and marketing skills to media contacts, writing, the creation of websites and working parties. The community spirit is alive and well in Rye. There were concerns, justified or not, about the secrecy of the Rye Partnership, especially with regard to the proposed Tilling Green Community Centre.

Nick Taylor reminded the meeting how the CDR had originated as a radical campaign against undemocratic, unaccountable local government and local organisations using public money. Most of these concerns are still relevant. Scrutiny of all public groups including the three local government councils is essential.

Tribute was paid to the campaigning energies of Alan Bolden, Nick Taylor and Granville Bantick over this past year, resulting in successful campaigns waged for a town steward, the Landgate Arch, and the new loading bay in Rye’s High Street. The need for pressure and for scrutiny has been proven – and must be continued.

Chris Coverdale, Tracy Dighton and Matt Follett all voiced support for social enterprise and new methods of tackling community problems that had escaped the normal channels of town, district and county councils. One immediate step would be to organise hustings for the May elections.

Anthony Kimber stressed how the new Campaign for Action in Rye steps into a future that, hopefully, will be redrawn by the neighbourhood plan, once it is agreed by the community – decisions and aspirations that will need the support and energy of the whole town. Kimber emphasised the principle of reciprocal “support by consent” – “We help only where we are asked to help, but we also expect a degree of help and participation when we ask. The new campaign must influence the agenda for both town and town council.”

The meeting was unanimous in its support for the neighbourhood plan and the need to support the action plan that will follow its adoption.

Campaign, action and scrutiny,  together with community support at all levels, are the new foundations for CDR’s heir. Its detailed aims and constitution will be hammered out at three more Wednesday evening meetings. All residents in the town and surrounding villages are invited and encouraged to attend. No membership or payment is required. The dates are: February 25, March 11 and March 18, all at 7pm, at the Rye Club on Market Road.

John Howlett is a former chairman of CDR / Photo: Tony Nunn

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