Nature reserve plans submitted

Artist's impression of the new Discovery Centre

A planning application has now been submitted for the new Discovery Centre at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and a decision is expected in October. The development would be a new high quality centre to provide information, education and refreshment facilities on the nature reserve.

The application follows a series of public consultations held in July at drop-in centres at Rye Harbour, Winchelsea and Rye, as recently reported in Rye News. Of the 138 people responding, 96% agreed that improved visitor facilities were needed on the Reserve and 93% thought that it was important to provide an education space that would enable adults and children to learn about the wildlife and history of the area. 83% agreed that the provision of toilets and cafe facilities were desirable features of the proposed new centre.

At a meeting of Icklesham parish council on August 29, however, 12 members of the local community came to object about the planning application. The format of the meeting did not allow the Sussex Wildlife Trust representative, Barry Yates, to answer the points raised, so he set these out in a subsequent letter to the Icklesham parish clerk. The concerns and his responses (in italics) are set out below.

The public points raised at the meeting included concerns over:

Access and increasing the number of visitors to the village:

It is not Sussex Wildlife Trust’s intention to dramatically increase visitors but to give existing visitors a better experience, especially those that are interested in more information about the area (not just about wildlife and the nature reserve), need access to toilets or have special needs. The reserve is a great outdoor coastal venue for those with a range of disabilities. Between 2001 and 2016 car numbers at the car park have risen from 66,304 to 97,036, with peak days being New Year’s day and Boxing day plus fine bank holidays, especially when Camber is full. The Environment Agency private road remains available for emergency access if Rye Harbour road is closed.  Natural England is planning its “England Coastal Path” along this road and it is also designated as a loop off  the national network

Spoiling the wilderness feel:

61% of the estimated 334,469 annual visitors only walk past Lime Kiln Cottage and return to the village. It is our aim to encourage more visitors to explore the other footpaths to gain a better wild experience

Coach parking from more school visits:

One of Sussex Wildlife Trust’s ambitions is to increase the number of school visits. This will be mid-week and existing coach parking against the fence of the car park seems to work OK now. If parking here is an issue then some work needs to be done to sort the existing problem

Building too big, and footprint of existing building too high:

The size is based on similar centres’ experience in providing adequate space for the desired functions with a passing visitor numbers at 203,776 in 2016. The increased height (1m higher than existing chimney) is to make the building flood resilient. We have reluctantly removed the living accommodation to keep the building as low and small as possible. The existing building is about 3 times smaller than the proposed building.

In a subsequent letter to the Icklesham parish clerk, Barry Yates reiterates the vision behind the project, which he believes will create additional benefit to residents, visitors and businesses and intends to work with them to achieve this.

[Note from the Editor-in-Chief Charles Harkness, a Rye Town Councillor: Rye Town Council will discuss a request from the new Centre’s Appeal Director for a letter of support this Monday, September 18, at 6:30pm as a result of a number of councillors expressing concerns about the letter of support they were asked to sign up to, particularly as Icklesham Parish Council was now opposing the scheme.

Concerns had been raised in Rye Harbour about the impact of the plan on existing businesses and facilities in the village, the duplication of such facilities, and the impact on the village if the new centre’s facilities were hired out to other groups at other times.

Rye councillors have also questioned some of the figures quoted on parking and visitor numbers, and Rye News has reported concerns in the past about road traffic down to the harbour past the industrial area, and traffic delays at the junction with the Winchelsea Road]

Photo: courtesy of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Image Credits: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve .


  1. Not so long ago councillors agreed that before anymore developments went ahead at Rye harbour, the harbour turning would be upgraded to accommodate the extra traffic,once again it seems empty promises,from our elected officers.

  2. The proposed development of a ‘Discovery Centre” at Rye Harbour has been widely objected to especially by the inhabitants of Rye Harbour Village on grounds that it is totally unnecessary as a classroom is already available in the refurbished Village Hall with a drop down screen. The cabins are amply able to provide information and sales, though these may have to be moved at some point. Lime Kiln Cottage is much loved and iconic but has been badly maintained and could do with another refurbishment to provide continuing necessary accommodation for Chris and Jo Bentley, who are regarded as part of the village and space for storage and research. They are also valued as providing guardianship of the reserve and able to deal with emergencies as they arise.
    The 60 seater cafe is replicating eateries already available in the village and provides unfair competition as a charity would only pay a fraction of the 100% business tax paid by everyone else. Exhibition space is available in Avocet and the Halpin galleries.
    The access through the village is problematical as traffic is already at a maximum level. There are excellent studies by Rye Harbour Architect Nick England and surveyor John Royle as well as an excellent opposition from Longtime supporter and ex Chair woman and legal advisor Nicky Frith in the opposition comments. Long term and lifelong members of rye Harbour have submitted very thoughtful and at length reasoning for their objections. I ask you all to read these comments carefully. The so called consultations were not consultations but just a putting forward of plans and proposals with no real discussion or thought given to what this terrible grandiose development might mean to locals. Most of the support comes from outside the Village who have no real knowledge of how much we care for our characterful village and the unspoiled wildness of the Reserve where it is possible to really appreciate a very small but lovely bit of wildness.
    How on earth this could be maintained either financially or with volunteers is mind boggling. As a longterm Volunteer I know how many times a desperate call comes through to fill frequent gaps when only one volunteer is required.
    It is deplorable that this is even being considered.

  3. Maureen Robins

    I have already submitted my objections to the proposed development at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve so will confine my criticisms here about the building and access.

    I see that the height of the building will not be much more than the height of the existing chimney – as I don’t know what height that is, it is not possible to make the calculation. I also note that Sussex Wildlife do not anticipate that there will be a “dramatic” increase in the number of visitors in which case why is such a large building needed?

    Parking is at a premium at the harbour and any increase in traffic can’t be accommodated – it is running at full already, particularly as it is being used these days by motorists who find Camber too busy or full and that is obviously going to get worse.

    Rye Harbour village hall would be a good venue for lectures, etc. It has recently been fitted out with new facilities.

    The design of the building shows no sensitivity whatsoever to the site; would be gross and ugly alongside the river, spoiling the view.

  4. An enormous new industrial development has recently been constructed at Rye Harbour while everyone’s attention has apparently been focussed on this proposed new visitor’s centre. The building is enormous in height and is clad with plastic with reflective properties that make the entire structure blaze in all its ugliness when the sun is low. It forms a backdrop to Camber Castle approaching from the south and west, it dwarfs and often hides the church steeple of St Mary and completely destroys what were once pleasant views across Castle Water. It is a disgusting construction with no redeeming features and, due to it’s great height, can be seen from nearly every perspective around Rye. I wonder why this development, which I believe is ‘Phase 1’ of several, wasn’t held up for criticism and opposition?!


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