European cash might help Rye

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Regeneris Consulting has published the Romney Marsh Delivery Plan, 2014-2017. This wide-ranging 53-page report for the Romney Marsh Partnership (RMP) is important for Rye as, along with New Romney, it is the largest settlement within the RMP area. The report sets out a plan for boosting local economy in order to deal with the winding down of the Dungeness nuclear power stations and the consequent loss of jobs. The plan recommends applying for some of the new European funding of potentially £180m available to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership for 2014-2020. The report suggests that this funding could be used for local projects at Tilling Green, Rye Harbour and Camber, as well as projects already in hand under the Rye Partnership which, along with all the local councils, is a member of the RMP.

Youth unemployment, transport issues and low skill levels are all challenges highlighted in the report which states that “it is also important to ensure that Romney Marsh’s older age groups are viewed as a strong resource for the area”, so that older age groups are helped to remain active in the skills and employment markets. Other opportunities to be explored include further development of the voluntary sector and inter-generational support for younger age groups. One possible project would lend scooters to people aged between 16 and 65 who have trouble getting to work or training because they do not have access to private or public transport.

European funding would come from the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the European Agricultural Development Fund. Areas supported by such funding would include innovation, business start-ups, skills and apprenticeships, tourism and renewable and broadband investments. Projects around Rye include: harbour improvements affecting both fishing and leisure; the creation of more business space at Rye Harbour; redeveloping Camber’s central car park; and developing houses and a community centre on the former Tilling Green primary school site. The Rye Partnership’s recent annual meeting was told that plans for the Tilling Green redevelopment have been submitted to East Sussex Council, which has raised various issues.

Other possible improvements raised in the report include:

  • the electrification of the Ashford-Hastings railway line;
  • the possibility of high speed trains running from Ashford through to Bexhill for which, as advised to the Marshlink group’s recently held annual meeting, there is a good business case;
  • improved access to the M20 south of Ashford.

It is noted that although the expansion of Lydd airport might be helped by transport improvements, Manston airport in nearby Thanet has struggled to survive despite better transport links.

The plan under consideration by the RMP is based on supporting local employment and strengthening the business base, since twice as many people commute away from the area to work as commute in. It is important to ensure that Romney Marsh, including Rye, remains “a great place to live, work and visit”. One major question mark, highlighted in the report, is the future of nuclear activity at Dungeness, where one power station is being decommissioned and the other might stay operating until 2028. A reactor based on new designs is one possibility and the site could be used for nuclear waste as a geological disposal facility.