The Planning and Townscape Committee met at the Town Hall on Monday July 31, followed by an additional meeting of the full council.
The P&T meeting was well attended by members of the public, as one of the planning applications to be deliberated was the controversial proposal to locate a petrol station and retail outlet at the top of Udimore Road adjacent to the Valley Park development.
As readers will be aware from our report in Rye News last week, feelings are running high and the application was universally decried, with objection largely focusing on traffic increase, safety, current congestion and the visual impact on the skyline at one of the gateways to Rye. The vice chair of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, Anthony Kimber, expressed considerable reservation and queried the validity of the sequential tests conducted in support of the proposal. The Neighbourhood Plan had identified other suitable sites for food outlets. A member of the public agreed asserting that, “surely down in the town there are other sites”. One particularly succinct resident gauged the mood of the public gallery with: “Right thing for Rye in the wrong place.”
The upshot after a wide-ranging discussion revolving around various aspects of its utter unsuitability was that the Town Council could not support approval of this application.
The amended application to redevelop the former Skinners garage site in Fishmarket Road was considered insufficiently altered and still constituted over-development with access and parking deficiencies.
Concern was expressed regarding the possible misuse of the planning process in terms of incremental and retrospective use applications and considerable alarm voiced at the potential danger attendant upon unauthorised excavation of the cliff face at The Strand. The Clerk was instructed to follow this up with Rother District Council.
The full Council enthusiastically congratulated Councillors Gilbert, Rivett and Creaser on their excellent efforts in revitalising and running The Festival of The Sea.
They then discussed the matter of the Rye International Jazz Festival and the request that the Buttermarket be used gratis from the August 26-28 by the organisers. The concern regarding road closure and residents’ complaints from the previous year was raised and discussion proceeded to issues of precedent, charitable status, and opportunity costs such as loss of weddings income. General opinion was supportive of the Jazz Festival and, while lauding the benefits to the town, noted that it was a commercial concern. The Buttermarket gratis rent was for charitable purposes and was in the Mayor’s gift. A proposal to offer the non-commercial rate fell and the commercial rate was agreed.
The Council then returned to the continuing difficulties with the Discounted Accommodation Scheme. The Council have been informed that, for their protection, they must seek fairly costly legal opinion on the complexities and ramifications of renting to their intended tenants – younger Rye households. The tenancy agreements must be absolutely right with all legal niceties observed and everything dotted and crossed.
A previous suggestion that the property be let at a market rent in the interim was agreed. Councillors believed that the property standing empty was a financial drain and that a market rent over a one or two-year period might help offset the further legal costs. The Letting Agents are ready to proceed with a one-year tenancy with a six-month break clause.
Photo: Rye News library