Since December 2014, two and a half years ago, when a former Town Councillor revealed that Rother District Council (RDC) was letting the town’s historic Landgate rot into a ruin, Rye News and many of its readers have been pressing for action on the medieval archway’s future – particularly as it is the main entrance into the High Street.
The excuse from the RDC for lack of progress has been that their staff who deal with this have also been dealing with the fallout from the Camber drownings last summer and that this has had to take priority.
The Freedom of Information request in 2014 revealed the RDC had done virtually nothing since the 2011-2012 accounts to maintain the medieval Landgate gateway, built in 1329, which is the only surviving gateway from the town’s defences.
Since then Rother has cleared the gateway of tonnes of bird droppings so a report could be safely done on its condition before a second report was carried out to determine what action was needed – and how this might be achieved.
Some weeks ago, our RDC councillor, Lord Ampthill promised to press for, at the very least, a timetable for release of that surveyor’s report and recommendations of action to be taken. But in the meantime no work at all has been done on the Landgate apart from removing the bird droppings – and nothing was done to prevent more damage.
But Rother is now finally taking action , and in a letter to Rye Town Council (and, therefore by definition, now in the public domain) Brenda Mason, Service Manager Community and Economy, has explained Rother’s intended next actions. In her letter, she states the following,
“John Bailey (of Thomas Ford Architects, who undertook the survey – Ed.) has been looking into the prospect of funding from Historic England (HE) and we are now actively pursuing this funding route.
“From this we are now developing a possible two phase approach, subject to the proper approvals:
“1. If a HE funding bid is successful, we use the funds, assisted by an RDC contribution, to undertake repair works, including pigeon-proofing, then
2. Seek to lease the repaired asset to the Town Council or another Rye organisation to take forward the future ownership and re-use of the building assisted by the prospect of Heritage Lottery funding. This in turn might lead to full transfer of the asset freehold if the development bid were to succeed.
When we have heard back from John on HE funding and any implications we should be in a position to finalise the Landgate Vision document and share it with the Town Council and local heritage partners. This in turn can lead to further discussions and hopefully agreement on the way forward . . . I would hope to be in a position to do this by June or July.”
So at last the town is seeing some progress and, while there is a limit to the amount that can be done by Rye Town Council before the Landgate Vision document is produced, it now has a month or two to digest the implications of this, and decide on possible ways forward regarding future ownership, use and maintenance.
Photo: John Minter
Image Credits: Rye News library .