Help needed to save Landgate

Landgate Arch is in a sad state - and the clock stopped years ago

The Friends of the Landgate will be holding a meeting on Sunday, January 21, at St Mary’s Centre, Lion Street, at 4pm. St Mary’s Centre is next door to the Kino.
The small interim committee of Heidi Foster, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Jones and myself, Gillian Roder, now need to decide exactly what role the group will play in providing support to the plans (or lack of them), for the Landgate and what to do next.
As you will know, from reading the articles in Rye News , Rother District Council (RDC) made it clear at a meeting in November, chaired by Councillor Lord Ampthill, that no money is available to do anything other than clean the guano from the bottom of the building once or twice a year and ensure the structure remains reasonably secure. There are no funds to improve the present situation or consolidate the Landgate further. The preferred option for RDC is for the Landgate to be taken over by another organisation or person.
Rye Town Council is not prepared to take over the building, and the other organisations at the meeting, Rye Conservation Society, the Museum and the Friends of the Landgate made it clear that this was their position, too.
It was agreed that a smaller group would meet, at the suggestion of Rye Town councillors, but a date has yet to be set for this.
The Friends of the Landgate meeting on January 21 is being held to explain why we want to support this ancient building and what ideas we have about its future. We need to discuss with you all whether a local pressure group is of value. Obviously, the Conservation Society has been working on this problem for a long time, and have made its position known. The Friends of Landgate are not able to provide the solution wanted by RDC of a new owner, but there may be other things that could be done to push forward solutions.
Anyone interested is invited to attend, and all our supporters will receive an agenda shortly. We are sure there are more ideas out there that will help to move this along, and not allow it to be left yet again.

Photo: Rye News Library


  1. I find it hard to understand how so much discussion has taken place on this issue, and for so many years, in an apparent complete vacuum of knowledge or appreciation of the legal position.
    It has been clear for many years that Rother have no intention of taking action to save the Landgate, and that their preferred option is apparently to sit back and do nothing until the gate becomes unsafe and they will (reluctantly of course) be forced to demolish it. That being the case, why have the many interested parties in Rye been content to allow Rother to continue to prevaricate so blatantly for so long? Playing straight into your enemy’s hands rarely leads to a good outcome.
    What is needed is for a local solicitor to offer to act pro bono to instruct counsel to advise on: (1) are Rother indeed responsible for the gate? (2) if so, what is the exact extent of their duty of care? (3) who can enforce this through the courts? (4) how can this be done?
    In addition, why has thought not been given to a residents’ association which could field candidates at all elections against the incumbents (Rye town council, Rother DC, East Sussex CC, etc.), people prepared to ignore party politics and campaign solely on local issues (parking,road safety, conservation, etc) and commit to an end of talk and a beginning of firm action?
    Local authorities always revert to inertia unless and until somebody sues them. Politicians, national or local, always revert to prevarication unless and until their continued existence as politicians is threatened. If the Landgate is to be saved, these principles need to be taken to heart.

  2. The Landgate is owned by Rother District Council, so they are responsible for it. While we might consider they should do more with it, the only enforcement results from it being in a dangerous state (which it isn’t – yet) or requiring action to be taken if it is put on the “Buildings at risk” register, and Rye Conservation Society has considered asking for this to be done by Historic England which administers the register. But – enforcement is in the hands of the local authority, otherwise known as Rother District Council!
    There is absolutely no question of the gate becoming so unsafe it must be demolished; the structure is a scheduled ancient monument and that would not be allowed. Rye Conservation Society has repeatedly pointed out that re-roofing and stabilisation would be a one-off cost that would obviate the need for repeated cleaning of the interior. However, it would be reasonable to suggest that Rother’s desire to wash their hands of the Landgate would land any other overseeing body with a substantial, even unaffordable cost. If Rother cannot afford it, how could the Town Council? Furthermore, any such handover requires commitment to maintenance in perpetuity, so by taking it over ourselves we might be landing not only ourselves but our descendants with large bills. Better, perhaps, to continue to badger RDC to do what seems right.

  3. The local BBC Sussex often asks for people with local items of news to contact them, is it possible that the media could become involved with the Landgate problems? The apparent cavalier attitude of Rother of doing as little as possible is scandalous and the cobbles in places need mowing or have disappeared under vegetation.It would be interesting to hear Rother being interviewed.

  4. Rother District Council’s Cabinet minutes of 15 January 2018 state that following a failure to find a tenant for RDC’s Colonnades cafe hiding on the Bexhill seafront in front of the De La Warr Pavilion, after the council had already agreed to find £100k to pay for work ahead of letting the premises, the cabinet of RDC have found a further £100k towards capital improvements and another £60k to fit it out for possible letting – no tenant has been found yet though.
    So £260k capital expenditure in total has now been magicked up, after £160k has just been found hiding in the Council’s coffers ready and waiting to pay for the latest Bexhill-based project.
    And yet at a meeting in Rye Town Hall just before Christmas we were told by the doleful Rother chief executive Dr Leonard, backed up by the silence of the two Rother councillors for Rye, that there is no money to pay for renovation of the Landgate in Rye other than a biannual assault with water canons to blow out the bird shit. There’s no money, they said, not just for this year but for the next 10 years!
    These plaintive cries of absolute penury, whilst allowing a Grade 1 building under Rother’s ownership and care to rot were, at best, misleading!
    Rother is quite clearly loaded, but it seems that the cabal that runs the rather sorry shooting match in Bexhill just can’t be bothered with Rye!

  5. Agree with all previous comments except that collapse or demolition ‘wouldn’t be allowed’. It could happen and pieces of stone are reported to be falling now.
    I understand that the Landgate is now on the national ‘buildings at risk’ list so should it move up the order of priority.
    The inaugural Friends meeting on 21st was very successful and brought forth some strong views, included on Rother’s penury!
    Gillian Roden chaired well and I suggest the group who organised the meeting should become an interim committee and all those present should be signed up as Members. Collection of email addresses would be a good next step.

    • Thank you Chris for supporting the meeting. Just to clarify, the Landgate is not at present on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register. This was a suggestion made at the meeting between Rother District Council and all the stakeholders. It has yet to be actioned in any way.
      We do now have an email address list, as you suggest.

  6. May I have another 2 comments?
    Firstly the obvious comparison with using the Landgate more effectively, is the Gatehouse at Battle Abbey. The larger size means it has been possible to have two internal access stairs, but the rooftop viewing platform is very popular and opens up new views of Battle and the battle site.
    Secondly, and even more relevant, is the West Gate at Canterbury where a new use has been found, including (I understand) a viewing rooftop area. The main point is that access is via a glass bridge from the adjoining building, once a prison I think.
    With imagination, so far lacking in Rye, a similar access point could be provided, either from one of the abutting buildings, or from a free-standing glazed structure contains lift and stairs.
    Editor. I’ll send an image by email.

  7. Reading about the sorry state of the Landgate arch,which has it seems been wofully neglected by Rother District Council for years, let’s just hope we can have new faces representing us on RDC,whatever their political alliegence, at the next elections,and not nodding donkeys,as many tell me they have seen,over the past few years.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here