Because of the recent Council elections, a truncated version of the traditional mayor-making ceremony was held on Monday evening, May 20 – no church service this year and no slap-up feast for the town council and VIPs afterwards. The reason, your correspondent was informed was that if a mayor’s election for a second term of office coincides with general council elections, the ceremony is shortened to reduce any embarrassment should the existing mayor not be re-elected – an unlikely event in most cases.
The Mayor, Cllr Michael Boyd, and his deputy, Cllr Rebekah Gilbert, having been duly re-elected, a small celebratory drink was enjoyed by councillors and invited guests before the traditional throwing of hot pennies into the street below and which were eagerly gathered up by waiting children. Fortunately there were no ‘elf ‘n’ safety officers present to point out the inherent dangers of this practice, enjoyed by both throwers and children alike.
First council meeting
However colourful and traditional mayor-making may be, it has a serious purpose and the following evening the re-elected Mayor chaired the first meeting of the new Town Council.
This was primarily a business meeting to nominate members of the various committees, such as planning and finance although the suggestion that there should also be an ‘Armageddon Committee’ was turned down. (The reasoning that Rye should have such a committee because Bristol had one, was totally lost on this reporter). Colonel Kimber pointed out that REACT, of which he was chairman, was already there to deal with any unexpected disasters.
Prior to this, however, the two principal items on the agenda were reports from Col Kimber, giving and update on the Neighbourhood Plan and Louisa O’Shaughnessy with a report on the Heritage Centre.
Heritage Centre fights back
Louisa O’Shaughnessy reported something of a curate’s egg situation. Sales targets so far this year had not been met, largely due to a drop in visitor numbers, particularly the group visits – down to 27 this year against 45 for the same period last year. Several reasons were given for this, but undoubtedly, with much business often done with overseas visitors, the current Brexit mess has, as with so many businesses, had an effect.
However she was able also to report that changes to the business model of the Centre together with improved signage (so visitors know what to expect), locally produced products, increased use of social media, a new website under construction and a new till system to aid stock control and thereby increase productivity, were all ongoing and together with the main summer tourist season, should see turnover and sales recover as the year progressed.
The Mayor thanked her for the hard work she and her staff were clearly doing to make the Heritage Centre a success.
Neighbourhood Plan referendum date
It was Col Kimber’s turn to update the Council on progress on the Neighbourhood Plan. The good news here is that following a final long meeting with Rother, the last outstanding matters had been agreed and the date for the town referendum was fixed for Thursday, June 27 with the results being announced the following day. The final version of the Plan is due to be available on line this week, with a hard copy in the library.
Voting cards will be sent out shortly and Col. Kimber was at pains to point out how important it was that people should get out and not just vote, but vote, yes, for the Plan.
It has a number of advantages for Rye: it gives the town more say over the location and nature future development and, for example, this will help when finally deciding on the future of the sites at the old lower school and Freda Gardham in New Road. It also gives protection to existing green spaces including the allotments and where development is agreed, the town will benefit from an increased share of the CIL contribution that developers have to make to the community.
Rye News will have further, and more in depth, articles on it as the referendum date approaches.
Image Credits: John Minter, Kenneth Bird.