Landgate summit faces challenge

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Rye's medieval Landgate

Interested parties have been invited to an evening meeting in Rye Town Hall on Wednesday December 9 to discuss the future of the town’s historic Landgate, which requires urgent repairs.

Rother District Council (RDC) member Lord Ampthill has told the Town Council that Rother might be able to find some funding for immediate repairs such as re-roofing to limit bird access and damage, but the RDC  wants to devolve ownership of the Landgate to someone else more able to raise necessary funds.

The RDC will be represented at the summit along with the Rye Amenity CIC (Community Interest Company), Historic England, the Town Council itself, Rye Conservation Society and other interested parties. The meeting will face one immediate challenge.

Is the Landgate useful for anything else other than just being a historic ruin? Rye Conservation Society thinks not, and concludes that “the restrictions imposed by the building itself are likely to lead to the Landgate being retained as a stabilised ruin, but one designed so as to minimise future maintenance”.

Each Landgate tower has two circular rooms, one above the other, with a diameter of around four metres, along with a single chamber over the arch about five metres by four metres. Since the mid 1700s neither tower has had any internal floors and vertical access was originally by a spiral staircase within the wall of the western tower. Ground level access is by doors either side of the road which runs under the Landgate and up to the High Street.

However the RCS observes that “any future use would require the provision of suitable and legal vertical access and acceptable fire escape provision from the upper rooms” which would “significantly reduce the accommodation available for other uses”.

“In terms of Health and Safety the access to the towers, directly off the roadway, where traffic passes under the arch,” adds the RCS, ” would seem to mitigate against continuous public use.”

However repairs to The Landgate may mean the roadway being closed at least on a temporary basis and the summit may discuss whether this temporary closure might offer an opportunity to test whether the roadway should stay closed permanently, or be narrower and limited in the access it offers.

More space for access at road level, and fire escape provisions, may mean the building could be “used”, despite the Conservation Society’s doubts, but the first question for the Landgate summit may well be whether or not it is a useless building.

Photo: Ray Prewer