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 .