Landgate: action at last

The living and the dead: pigeons atop Landgate's tower

The rising clamour about the neglected state of Rye’s Landgate Tower has finally prompted Rother District Council to announce plans for a survey and clean-up. A specialist cleansing operation is scheduled for the middle of next month – this will remove bird droppings in preparation for survey work to begin.

Rye councillors Granville Bantick and Mary Smith have been actively campaigning for the restoration of the ancient monument in recent weeks. This followed the publication of an Opinions feature in Rye News highlighting the sorry state of the tower. Both Bantick and Smith welcomed the news from Rother’s neighbourhood services department on Tuesday.

Rother, it is understood, will begin a tendering process for a specialist architectural survey of the tower later this month. The survey should be completed  by early spring 2015. Then officers will look at options and may make recommendations to Rother councillors about further work. But at a recent Rye council meeting David Russell, a district councillor representing Rye, made it clear that very little funding is available for a comprehensive restoration of Landgate. In response Bernadine Fiddimore, the town’s mayor, proposed the establishment of a friends group to raise money for the restoration of the building and its broken clock and floodlighting [see article].

In another development Rye Conservation Society has told Rye News that it has now completed its application to English Heritage to have the monument placed on a national at risk register for listed buildings. See also a letter from the society in Opinions.

The unacceptable face of Rother's neglect
The unacceptable face of Rother’s neglect

Meanwhile, tourists and residents alike, continue to be upset about pigeons and other birds trapped inside the netting at the top of the Landgate. The remains of a number of dead birds are clearly visible from street level on both sides of the tower. Rye News made inquiries with Rother’s environmental health department several weeks ago about the matter but received no response. So instead it sought the opinion of Dave Jones, technical director of  the Pigeon Control Resource Centre. He said: “Regrettably, thousands of pigeons a year get trapped in netting simply because it’s installed where they like to roost and nest; it’s that simple. During installation of pigeon-excluding netting pigeons will always ‘go to ground’, hiding themselves away in small nooks, crannies or cavities then only coming out after the installers have left.”

Other reasons for birds becoming trapped include poorly installed or maintained netting, or damage caused by people or the weather. Rye News now understands that Rother intends to renew the netting inside the tower very soon. However, Jones confirmed that even if the netting is changed the problem might simply repeat itself if the situation is not regularly monitored. It is not known what plans the district council has made to do this once the work is complete. At present no one in Rye has a key to the building.

On Wednesday a Rye resident who contacted the RSPCA about the trapped birds was told that the animal welfare charity has completed its own investigations into the matter. Having spoken to Rother council and made a series of recommendations, an RSPCA officer made a site visit to view the building externally. She said that the netting in the tower has now been partially opened up. But the remains of some of the dead birds are still visible from the street.






Photos: Tony Nunn