Rye is currently beset with plans for residential development: apart from the well-known Lower School site, there is an application for houses alongside the railway in Mill Lane and a petition is also available to prevent another possible development at the woods behind the station (which would mean destroying the trees).
There have been strong objections to all these proposals, mainly on environmental and infrastructure grounds and the latest to join the fray has been MLAG (Marsh Link Action Group) who are writing to the head of Rother District Council planning department regarding the Mill Lane plan pointing out the potential traffic problems the development might cause together with noise pollution for the residents due to its proximity to the railway.
Their main points are:
- Congestion and danger on Ferry Road at the level-crossing
The closure of the level-crossing gates creates major issues for vehicles and pedestrians in this congested area.
Currently there is one train service per hour each way during most of the day (potentially requiring two closings of the level-crossing gates). However, at peak times there is an additional train per hour (because of the phasing and nature of this additional service, two more closings are required): consequently, there are potentially four closings per hour at peak times. Each closing of the gates generates an additional build-up of stationary traffic concertinaing the flow of traffic.
Even when the gates are open, the B2089 has significant traffic and, with the existing layout of the roads, there is congestion – for vehicles coming into Rye, immediately after the level-crossing (within a space of three metres), vehicles are already faced with traffic joining the road from the right (from Cyprus Place); a few metres further on, two lines of traffic merge creating a junction as they feed into each other; and, to add further complexity, there is a supermarket entrance/ exit only a few metres further on from this junction. The traffic in this area is already subject to complaints in the local press.
The combination of these traffic issues already makes the area around the level-crossing difficult to manoeuvre around, especially for drivers unfamiliar with the junction, something which is frequently the case with Rye being a significant tourist town with a lot of tourist traffic.
Creating even more complexity by permitting additional traffic to come into and out of Ferry Road immediately adjacent to the level-crossing is going to add to the danger for that traffic, for pedestrians and also for trains. This problem has already been debated in consideration of the Lower School Site on the other side of Ferry Road from this proposed development: but the prospect of a second, though smaller, housing developments with entrances/ exits almost opposite each other on a busy road next to a level-crossing and sharing an exit with the fire station seems to be folly.
- Additional rail traffic proposals under development
Over a period of about eight years, MLAG (and other rail action groups along the MarshLink line between Ashford and Eastbourne) have been holding discussions with Network Rail and other relevant parties about extending the rail service from London St. Pancras along the line through Rye to Eastbourne. The result is there would be an hourly service between London St. Pancras and Eastbourne. East Sussex CC and Rother DC (together with other interested bodies) have funded studies into this proposal with the objective of improving the economic regeneration of towns along the line. These proposals are well known to Rother DC.
This service would be an hourly, limited stop service to the major towns on the MarshLink, including Rye: but this would be in addition to the current hourly, all stations service. Consequently, there would be two trains per hour each way throughout the day crossing the level-crossing resulting, potentially, in four closings of the barriers per hour.
To enable these proposed services to operate, there are two track changes in prospect that would affect the area:
– Network Rail say it would be necessary to extend the current dual track (now only within Rye Station where trains cross) further west, to Winchelsea Bridge, to create a “passing loop.” MLAG is not aware of any impact this would have on the land relating to the current planning application; but also
– one more significant development which may have an impact on the proposed development is that the lines may be electrified, one option being third rail (alternatively bi-mode trains would be needed).
Planning Department and the developers may wish to seek advise from Network Rail specifically on this issue.
- Path proposed along railway line to connect Platform 1 with Gibbet Marsh car park
Rye suffers from insufficient car-parking, particularly car parking for the station. It is one of MLAG’s objectives to provide a good pedestrian connection between Rye Station and Gibbet Marsh car park.
There are two components to achieve this:
– a path is required alongside the railway track from Ferry Road crossing to near Rye Windmill. This would be through the site currently under consideration under this development proposal;
– a bridge would need to be constructed across the River Tillingham into the Gibbet Marsh car park. Such a bridge has already been proposed by Network Rail, discussed with Rother DC and a public meeting held but, at the moment, this proposal is lying fallow. The reason for the bridge from Network Rail’s perspective is to enable them to close the existing pedestrian level-crossing from Gibbet Marsh into the town.
However, this proposal is not currently included in the Neighbourhood Plan.
We wonder if the developer has taken full account of the noise generated by a railway a few metres from some of the planning houses which seem to be very close to the railway.
The first train of the day is currently at 5.45 and the last at 23.46. There are also some freight and rail maintenance trains throughout the night. These can create significant vibration at close quarters (as some members of MLAG can testify).
MLAG believes, for the above rail-related reasons, the application should be refused.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .