Natural England has launched its consultation on the stretch of Coast Path from Eastbourne to Camber – but curiously this does not include the option of passing through Rye.
The England Coast Path billed itself as “the longest managed and waymarked coastal path in the world” and was to act as an uninterrupted national trail around all of England’s coast but the dangerous junction at the A259 and Rye Harbour Road proved too much for them and they conclude that “there is no safe road crossing point for pedestrians into Rye.”
Natural England went on to say, “We have investigated ways to improve the road crossing point here, including providing a traffic island at the road junction, a pedestrian crossing over the A259 or by creating a pavement on the east side of Harbour Road to the junction.
“We have looked at other options to avoid this road junction, such as crossing Harbour Road further south and then crossing over the Environment Agency Sluice. Unfortunately none of these options are possible.”
The planners recognise that there is a long standing and strong desire for a walked route around the River Rother via Rye but, because they are unable to make the crossing safe, it makes a continuous estuary route around the Rother “a complex and potentially prohibitively expensive undertaking that could not be achieved within the current timescale of the national England Coast Path Programme.”
It remains their aspiration to create an uninterrupted walking route from Eastbourne to Camber and they mention “ongoing discussions regarding the creation of a footbridge across the river.
“If such a development came to pass, or if the junction was made safe for pedestrians, we would investigate whether an estuary route is viable and, if appropriate, would prepare a separate variation report to the Secretary of State.”
It is unclear who has proposed the footbridge, or where it would be constructed, apart from the suggestion that a “local developer has an aspiration to construct a footbridge over the River Brede to the south of Rye.”
Rye News has reported on the dangerous junction previously, where the Rye Harbour Road, which is managed by East Sussex Highways, connects with the A259, which is the responsibility of Highways England.
There are further concerns with the additional traffic that the new Discovery Centre will generate at the junction when it opens later this year. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve estimate that 360,000 people will visit each year, which is an increase of 66% since 2001, and the vast majority will visit by car.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve appreciates that at peak times there are too many cars for the parking spaces available and is working with the Sussex Community Rail Partnership to promote visiting by others means, such as by rail and walking, on their website and in their literature.
But one must ask if that is wise when visitors arriving at Rye station and travelling to the Discovery Centre on foot must cross a junction that has been deemed unsafe.
There is a further question as to why Rother District Council approved the planning application for the Discovery Centre, knowing that it is likely to increase visitor numbers, and why it did not stipulate that a safe crossing is created.
In a further knock-back for a continuous Coast Path around England, the path along the east side of the River Rother, which runs alongside the Rye Golf Club, will not be included in the England Coast Path.
The report says that Rye Golf Club is concerned that if the existing path is linked with the Coast Path there “might be an increase in the number of walkers between Rye and Camber that might disrupt play and affect their management of the golf course, resulting in potential loss of income.”
Walking around Rye and the Rother estuary should be a highlight of any England Coast Path, however it seems the town’s on-going transport problems will result in a significant gap in Natural England’s plans.
Natural England is currently contacting landowners to discuss how coastal access rights might work on the land they own. You can read the full report that contains detailed maps here.
There is an eight week period for people to comment on their proposals. Comments can be submitted online here. Representations and objections must reach Natural England by midnight, Thursday April 23.
Image Credits: Natural England , Rye Harbour Nature Reserve , Kenneth Bird .