A few weeks ago Rye News reported that a “Friends of Landgate” group was to be formed in order both to add pressure to Rother District Council (RDC) and to contribute to plans for the future of the Landgate. This attracted considerable interest from a number of our readers and we understand that a meeting with RDC has already been held on which we will be reporting in due course.
Meanwhile, Rye Conservation Society (RCS) has also finally woken up to the fact that Rother are becoming masters of procrastination and a letter, which can only be described as pretty sharp, has been sent to Rye’s councillor at Rother, Lord Ampthill.
In it, RCS Chairman, John Griffiths, reminds Councillor Ampthill that concerns were first raised by the Society in 2011, although it was not until 2014, and following further pressure from Rye Town Council and the Conservation Society (not forgetting, as well, regular articles and comments in Rye News) that a limited amount of internal cleaning was done in order to enable an inspection by Thomas Ford and Partners in 2015.
Some 15 months later RDC announced that it hoped to put forward a “Vision Statement” by November 2016. Since then, the RCS letter claims, no more has been heard.
What has been heard, however, is excuse after excuse for not doing anything. First it was the tragic deaths at Camber, and the entire Council, it would seem, were working on the repercussions, then it was “the cuts” and not enough staff and finally, when Rye News said that the paper was going to put in a Freedom of Information request to force Rother to at least make the surveyor’s report public, we were told that the report was now with East Sussex County Council and was out of the public domain. No information has been given to this writer as to why it had to go to ESCC, why – if it had to go – it took two years to send it, how long ESCC has had it and finally when will it be returned to RDC.
Returning to the RCS letter, it goes on to say “. . . the failure to keep residents of Rye informed of any such progress and the lack of a future timetable only reinforce the widely-held belief that Rother is more interested in off-loading its civic, financial and moral responsibilities with regard to this national monument than it is to maintaining it. It also serves to strengthen the view held by many in Rye that there is one law for Rother but a different one for owners of other listed buildings when it comes to the maintenance and conservation of our built heritage.”
Dealing with practical and immediate matters, John Griffiths reminds Lord Ampthill that, in the surveyor’s report the wooden flagpole was seen to be rotten at its base and should be removed. It is, of course, still there and just waiting to be blown down in a high wind and potentially injure or kill any passer by. Much the same applies to the buddleia growing on what is left of the roof, which could also be in danger of coming down and bringing stonework with it.
Finally, at the time of the survey, RCS had been in contact with Historic England with a view to having the Landgate included on the Buildings at Risk Register. It held off completing the application in order not to prejudice Rother’s position. Now, however, unless it learns of positive progress, it will re-open the case with Historic England and publicise the situation and its efforts as widely as possible.
This situation should never have been allowed to happen and the action – or rather, inaction – of RDC, including Rye’s representatives on the Council, is widely regarded as disgraceful. Rye News will certainly do all it can to support the efforts of both the RCS and the embryo Friends of the Landgate in their efforts to save our wonderful medieval building.
Photos: Rye News library