High Street to close

Why Rye High Street might need closure between 10am and 4pm

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) has asked the Department for Transport to approve the closure of Rye High Street between 10am and 4pm as a temporary measure to provide safe space for social distancing as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease – and more shops can re-open.

And more permanent changes will follow with the preparations for the implementation of civil parking enforcement (CPE) over the summer.

This High Street closure is one of around 20 temporary measures proposed by ESCC for money allocated from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.

Social distancing inside shops, and limits on the number of people in a shop at any one time, could lead to overcrowding on Rye’s narrow pavements already affected by work on The George hotel and poor parking, so what is proposed is a safety measure.

At the same time though ESCC is pressing on with plans for the introduction of CPE from October following Parliamentary approval expected in September.

And Rye Town Council has made a “last minute” appeal to ESCC for the Rye scheme to include one hour’s free parking at the start of the day, in line with Tenterden’s scheme run by Ashford Borough Council and taking into account “the added challenge of post Covid-19 economic recovery to factor in”.

Work on installing pay and display machines and installing or refreshing parking lines and signs will require residents and traders to move their vehicles for short periods, and will start imminently, says ESCC “having been delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown”.

During August ESCC will run a press and media campaign to explain to businesses and residents what will happen with the parking changes, including a two week grace period before penalties start to be imposed.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .


  1. This will lead to surrounding streets becoming more congested – as has happened in other parts of the country when such actions are taken. Echoing the above comment, how are residents of the High Street – there are many – able to gain access to their houses? It is not possible to organise deliveries or lives of residents around 10am to 4pm. The High Street is not a through road – like Battle, for instance – and with patience from drivers can easily accommodate the traffic. Is the feasibility of the lives of residents to be sacrificed to the great god of shopping

  2. How can this work for deliveries? We only have front access, as do most of the shops! Many of our deliveries are by lorry, on pallets and on a national courier service. We are not able to ‘dictate’ fixed delivery times and therefore this measure will devastate our supply chain.
    Small high street traders rely on footfall… people coming into our shops though the enormous effort we make to ensure our shops are appealing and interesting. The measures outlined will have a very negative impact. Of course, keeping everyone safe is a key objective for all of us and we have invested in taking all measures to make this integral to the shopping experience in the current climate. Rye Deli has remained open throughout the lockdown and has seen first hand how responsible the general public have been, observing respect for the safety of others and themselves.
    ESCC‘s proposed measures (including the new parking model!!) will make an already hard job of trading in this climate immeasurably harder!!!

  3. After discovering the pleasures of visiting Hythe in the Summer when they have a section of their High Street closed I have felt for a long time it would suit Rye very well. At the time I was thinking of tourism but I take the point about trying to achieve social distancing whilst movement is curtailed by parked cars and deliveries.
    Presumably Hythe, and other towns which have adopted the same scheme for their Summer visitors, can advise us on how they manage the temporary displacement of parked cars and deliveries?

    • This is rather the point, isn’t it? For the scheme to have any chance of success the displacement of vehicles has to be “managed”, and that is exactly what ESCC has failed to do, both with its proposal for the temporary High Street closure, and with its heavy-handed and inappropriate plan for CPE. As some posters have commented, there could indeed be an upside to closing the High Street, but only if there were plans in place to deal with the issues which the closure raises and which others have mentioned here: disabled access; deliveries to local businesses; access for residents living in other parts of the town; increased pressure on parking in surrounding streets. These problems require a degree of planning sophistication which is woefully lacking at ESCC. Deaf and blind to all local interests, it presses blithely on with its own simplistic and unworkable plan: close the road, end of story.

  4. What about the disabled? This will deny disabled people access to Boots, the other pharmacy and the only bank available in Rye. Also access to the dentist.
    It is not only the shops that will suffer. Blue badge holders will be devastated to be denied access to the High Street.

  5. Just to be clear: East Sussex County Council did not consult Rye Town Council on the proposed 10am-4pm temporary ‘social distancing’ High Street closure. The Town Council was not even sent the press release which included the proposal! We have pointed this out and requested the thinking/detail behind the proposal (which, it seems, has been discussed with Rother District Council). The Town Council supports, in principle, the introduction of measures to help keep us all safe but is unable to support this proposal until the relevant local stakeholders have been consulted, the implications have been carefully assessed – and it is assured that whatever scheme emerges is practicable and will be managed properly.

  6. Change has to come to deal with the immediate emergency but, if we are honest and pause to reflect, the narrow pavements of the High Street have increasingly become a problem; if a wheelchair user and companion(s), or a mother with a child in a buggy, need to pass along the pavements, other pedestrians have to decant themselves into the road or into shop doorways. Maybe now is the time to revisit the concept of ‘shared space’ removing the pavements /parking altogether from the corner of East Street . Residents of the Citadel area – and visitors needing transport to the Kino (should it ever re-open) – would still have their access but the through route would be via Church Square/West Street/Mermaid Street . Both Lion Street and West Street would be No Through Roads preventing traffic from doubling back onto the High Street.
    It is possible for couriers/delivery companies to organise their deliveries around local street restriction as happens elsewhere. In addition, Rye would become a much more user-friendly town with the reduced, and slower-moving ,traffic giving rise to reduced emissions/better air quality.
    What’s not to like?

  7. Agree with Ann Rachlin. Lots of slightly disabled people i.e. unable to walk very well, who don’t perhaps need a blue badge will be unable to make it up the hill to the High Street and dentist etc.

  8. As i have said on a previous post on here, the high street from Adams to Rivers the out fitters,is ideal to be pedestrianised.deliveries could be allowed to park and unload on that section, plus picking up prescriptions only, this is a better way to experiment, until the pandemic is over, we the pedestrians trying to visit the shops in the high street,are sick and tired of lorries and vans parking on the pavements impeding our way,and i beleive it is illegal as well.

  9. Not just the officially disabled, there are those with mobility issues either temporary or permanent who don’t qualify for blue badges who will be unable to access services such as Nationwide, pharmacy or dentist as if using a car would have to try and park on the outskirts and walk, or risk using the town bus (if it’s running).

    • Hypothetical example … I have a dental appointment but have sprained my ankle and cant walk from an outskirts of town car park (assuming a space could be found). I need to be dropped off at the dentist by a relative. But unless my appointment is well before 10am so I can be collected after or after 4pm I cant go.

  10. It’s not just the high street – if the high street is closed then there is no access to the any of the streets above it in the Citadel either .. (unless everyone is going to drive up and down Mermaid St?)

  11. I like the idea by Pip above regarding shared space, and whilst I don’t think it possible to close off the whole High Street I agree with John that part-closure from Adams to The Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop could easily be implemented from 10am to 4pm. In addition if the one way system in Market Road were reversed allowing people to drive up it would still give access to residents in Market Road and to the Deli deliveries! Job done.

    Most of these schemes work in many other places I’ve lived and worked – even in Lewisham where they close a massive road to most traffic during the day for markets etc. Disabled access is always allowed and if we had shared space could be plenty of disabled bays for the disabled or for people who are just too lazy to use the car parks. Strangely enough Boots the chemist texted me this week and asked if I’d like my prescriptions delivered: as I’m neither particularly old or disabled I thought this was pretty pro-active as they are trying to keep as many people safe as possible: yes please I thought. I’m sure they offer this service to everyone, as does Horrells (or whatever they are called now) as they deliver to my Mum.

    It looks like this closure will happen. As you all know from last weeks article Rye Town council can only comment and East Sussex is in charge of highways anyway. So: write to Sally-Ann Hart the MP if you want to influence anything – most of you voted for her so let’s get her working.

  12. Richard Farhall comments that Rye Town Council were not consulted.

    ESCC release says:
    What consultation was undertaken on the development of the programme?
    In developing the programme, we have collaborated with our Borough and District Council’s as well as
    engaged with walking and cycling groups across the County for their thoughts and suggestions. In
    finalising the programme, these potential schemes have then been assessed on their likely impact and
    benefits as well as their deliverability, safety and likely local acceptability.

    So who’s right here? And, of interest, how do the proposals meet with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act – bearing in mind that a high proportion of the local population are elderly and the High Street is, as others have noted, on top of a steep hill.

  13. Many delivery companies have Rye as part of their route and cannot pick and choose the times they will deliver to Rye High Street.

  14. We definitely do not want more traffic and illegal parking on the pavement of Mermaid Street. It already has enough traffic going up and down and enough illegal parking all over the pavement, so no one can get passed and certainly no disabled or pram can use pavement. This is a 2 way road and traffic and illegal parking is horrendous for residents. So no we so not want more traffic and illegal parking.

  15. I’m not a Rye resident (Beckley), but it has always struck me that the High Street needs to be pedestrianised which would allow more cafe’s to put out tables and chairs, small events held etc. The Residents will have to be accommodated with another route in and out and taking away residents parking restrictions, so, in effect Rye would become a pedestrian only town apart from the residents.
    The problem of deliveries to the retailers could be ameliorated to some extent by having a central warehouse somewhere with easy access for trucks. The goods could be distributed to the individual shops on small electric trucks/vans – pretty much as they do in Swiss ski resorts both summer and winter. This would accommodate a much wider range of activities, greater throughput of visitors and everyone would benefit. Visitors would park in central car parks and be bussed into the High Street (or walk) on small electric buses.

  16. Absolutely terrible idea. With no consideration for people who are less able, Rye unlike many other local towns is on a hill, how do you propose for people who are less able to easily access local amenities such as the chemist, the bank etc?

    Rye also already has massive issues with parking and the lack off… where would all these cars go?

    Many people simply pop into Rye for a quick repair at the Jewellers, a key being cut at the shoe repairs or to collect their dry cleaning and often will park up shortly to get these essentials and move on.

    What everyone needs to remember is that although Rye is a tourist town, high streets as a whole are held up by services…

    It is also worth pointing out, the George now is having removals, deliveries and tradesmen coming and going throughout the day, having the road open is also just as important for them to get on and restore it.

    Rye is an ancient town with narrow paths and that’s the beauty of it, people just need to adjust to new normals not make it harder for people to earn a living and go about their daily routines…

  17. One must agree,deliveries to the high street can happen any part of the day, that is why my suggestion closing just a part of the high street, for deliveries and lets include blue badge holders, for a stipulated time,will solve the ongoing problem of selfish parking by some,and is the way forward,to the congestion and stress to pedestrians and people in cars,who have found it difficult to find a spot,to do their weekly shop in the high street,and when October comes,hopefully a level playing field for all,which we haven’t seen,since our traffic warden was seconded to Bexhill.

  18. This seems a little like a knee-jerk reaction from local government intent on organising our lives for us.
    The lack of consultation with RTC and local traders is unacceptable and our Councillor, Keith Glazier (and ESCC leader) should have ensured that did not happen
    My concern is that the whole government strategy has been inconclusive on the issue of Masks/Face Coverings.
    They have now accepted that face coverings reduce transmission potential by 40% so why do ESCC insist that face masks should be used by all when 2 metre distancing is not possible(including in shops) Many of us in Rye have been using masks for the whole of Lockdown and I will certainly continue to do so.
    As Dezi says we know how to be responsible both as residents and traders and we do not welcome initiatives from on high that are ill thought out.

  19. I know how to be responsible and I also know how long one hour is should I ever manage to find a car parking space in Rye High Street. Unfortunately, as my last visit to collect medication yet again proved, there is never a ‘short stay’ car parking place available (not even a double yellow line or dangerous corner should I decide this is an option, as many others obviously do) and not all pedestrians maintain social distancing.
    I have long since resigned myself to an unnecessarily long walk just to complete a 2 minute errand but when confronted by oncoming pedestrians who have no intention to distance themselves AND an on-coming car, the propect of a car free high street is very appealing.
    Displaced vehicles can use Gibbets Marsh but how to make it work for residents and those with mobility issues is the obvious conundrum that will probably have to be ignored as the priority is to protect the lives of those on foot.

  20. I seem to recall that there was a mention several months ago in these august columns of the Swiss town of Zermatt as an icon of traffic handling (everyone got into golf carts to get into town, or something like that). There seem to be echoes of this in the suggestion by Hugh Soden of café society on the High Street and a central warehouse that all retailers would share (Stinking Bishop right next to a Dior cocktail dress – fab!!). But in any event (and before we go any further with this retail utopia) who’s going to pay for it? My guess is that consumers will run a mile from any suggestion that they might chip in!
    I have written before on the issue of deliveries and I see that, once again, there are several mentions above along the lines of “deliveries must be confined to these hours” or “distributors must be told to deliver early in the morning” [NB this rather assumes that someone will be there to meet them in the early hours anyway!]. Once and for all, get a life! I can absolutely and categorically assure you all that there is not a chance in hell of a distributor/carrier from anywhere (let alone north of London) accommodating a delivery schedule set by anyone other than themselves! No matter how much you stamp your feet and wish for fairies at the bottom of the garden it ain’t gonna happen so please let’s drop it!
    Finally, I agree with Mike! What do ESCC think they are doing consulting everyone but those of us who live here?? Sorry, I forgot that’s par for the course! Where are you hiding Keith Glazier???

  21. ESCCs published consultation process states they consulted with district and borough councils so the blame for not consulting locally lies squarely with them ! Please step in ESCC Councillor Glazier and act to address the practicalities, the standard “it’s not my area of responsibility or expertise” won’t wash – you are our elected representative. Rother District were consulted so as we have two RDC councillors representing our town they should be called on to answer how this proposal has been put forward without local discussion and to explain Rother’s input. Unfortunately Rye Town Council is basically a Parish Council (see John’s comment) whose “official” influence is restricted but on this occasion they have at least made a robust intervention ( see Richard Farhall’s comment).

  22. Thank God for Rye news. It seems to me that this is a platform for residents to speak their minds and make their feelings known. I would personally back a move towards complete pedestrianisation of the high street and indeed the whole town one day. Obviously deliveries will still have to happen perhaps with some additional control. Blue badge holders and residents with permits obviously will continue to have access. Mobility scooters would have a clearer road to negotiate traveling at a pedestrian pace. Visitors should always be encouraged to use one of the many car parks situated in convenient locations around the town and walk!! Pedestrians/shoppers would enjoy a safer and more attractive high street. This is not crazy idealism, but quite a sensible reality. The town of Amalfi in Italy springs to mind, it is a town built into the cliffs and they have managed.

  23. It is crazy idealism because the vast majority of shops in Rye only have front access. If the High Street is pedestrianised access will “obviously” be impossible with or without “additional control”. Relentless comparison of Rye with other places is pointless. It simply isn’t suitable for pedestrianisation both from a retail and a residential perspective.

  24. Unless the 2m rule is lifted I can’t see any other way the rest of the shops can open. With people no doubt having to queue outside shops how can you expect to walk by them on the narrow pavements ? Other towns have put barriers on roads to temporarily widen the pavements but it’s impossible on the High Street. It will go ahead if you want to reopen the shops.

  25. Is it possible to please people on both sides of this argument?
    Look elsewhere to see what imaginative solutions have been used?
    Some time ago, in a comment in Rye News, I described an innovative scheme in Bath in the 1970’s, where they allowed vehicular access to the city centre but the route was long and complex. People only entered the city if they had a pressing reason. It worked for both pedestrians and those needing to access in vehicles.
    In Falmouth the main Street is pedestrianised but cars and vans can travel through via a car park or by waiting for a rising bollard to retract. The paving and street furniture are designed for pedestrians. It’s busy. Cars and vans have to travel extremely slowly, like following a flock of sheep. Vans stop to make deliveries and following vehicles have to wait. People avoid the route!!!!
    In Caversham, there is a private road with an extremely narrow pinch point, just wide enough for vehicles but only just. The bollards are striped with different coloured paint from cars where the driver was not careful. People avoid that route!
    The imaginative solution would stop unnecessary traffic by giving priority to pedestrians and making the route uncomfortable, inconvenient and unpopular to motorists.
    There are various ways that this could be done.

  26. Here’s a thought: for years, people have complained about inconsiderate parking on double yellow lines outside the Edinburgh Wool Shop (EWS). This causes problems for vehicles turning down Market Road. If a wide pavement was created in front of the Corner House and the road width in front of the EWS was single lane, cars could not park there.
    A similar solution would be possible at the corner of Landgate. A wider pavement in front of the Outside Inn, would mean that parking in front of GMP could not happen and the busses would not be obstructed getting around the corner (Rye News picture could be archived).
    I’m sure that there are solutions if people are minded to look for them!!

  27. There is an obvious solution which is to forget about pedestrianisation!

    This debate wouldn’t be taking place if it were not for dictatorial approach adopted by ESCC. I do hope Rye News are actively seeking to interview Keith Glazier so that we can all understand (a) the muddled thinking behind this idea and (b) who’s been consulted and why, it would appear, important stakeholders like retailers have been completely ignored.

  28. PS I meant to say in one of my posts that the picture which accompanies this article is misleading (sadly it often seems to be the case that you use pictures with stories where the context is questionable). Whilst I wouldn’t condone vans parking on the pavement, how long was the van there for? 1 minute, 5 minutes, an hour, all day? Presumably not very long and a car is still passing through. In normal times Rye is a busy and popular destination. It has vehicles in it like lots of towns up and down the country. It just needs reasonable control.

  29. Are you saying it’s ok to park on the pavement as long as it’s not for more than a couple of minutes?
    Moving onto Cinque Ports Street, parking on the pavement on the left just before Bannisters Corner is now the norm, some park so tight to the building that you are forced to walk in the road.
    One of the above comments stated that retailers have not been considered, one of the biggest parking problems in Rye is the traders taking up the parking spaces.

  30. Some great suggestions from Geoffrey Austen on how to tackle inconsiderate and illegal parking. A section of the pavement was extended on the north side of Market Street to deter parking so as not to block the narrow entrance into Church Square. Let’s hope the Town Council’s Highways Forum can meet soon to take his ideas forward.

    ps: driving onto the pavement (to park or otherwise) is an offence under section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 (https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01170/SN01170.pdf)

  31. I think the pavement was extended in Market Street in order to be able to put in a bollard (as they can’t be be constructed isolated in the road) with which to stop the regular and costly structural damage to the corner of Flushing caused by trucks taking too tight a turn. Illegal parking would have served to protect the house in exactly the same way, just seems there wasn’t enough of it back in those not too distant days!

  32. Regarding the vans on the pavement outside of Boots, this problem was initially resolved by the implementation of a loading bay in front of The George, but obviously it is blocked now while the repair work continues.
    It worked very well to ease congestion except for the people parking in there ‘to just pick up a prescription’.

  33. Although I love the idea of Rye Hight St being pedestrianised part-time, I fully appreciate how impractical this is for many. But in places where pavements are narrow, why isn’t it part of the social distancing plan to walk the same way we drive, walk on the LEFT side. You may want to visit a shop on the RIGHT side, but you can still cross over. But when finished you cross back over to the LEFT side. Rye High St is so short in length, I’m sure the majority of people, in particular daytrippers, walk up and down it more than once. If everyone was walking in the same direction it might stop the silly dance people do when approaching each other as they work out how to pass each other.


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