As a Conservative Rother councillor for East Rother (which includes Winchelsea Beach, Rye Harbour, Camber and Playden) since 2015, Sally-Ann Hart is no newcomer to local issues, as she demonstrated clearly in our interview.
Arriving early at the Mermaid Inn, where we were meeting, she lost no time in giving me a finish deadline for our discussion (a follow-on appointment in Hastings) and the immediate impression was of someone efficient and businesslike, but easy to talk to and well aware of the task she was trying to take on.
A solicitor, specialising in family law, she moved into the area – now living in Udimore – some twenty years ago but ceased regular practice to cope with the demands of a growing young family. Her connection with the law, however, continued with her appointment as a magistrate and it is the experience that this gave her, of seeing families broken apart by drug use, crime and a lack of adequate education that, she says, made her want to be part of changing laws rather than just administering them. Her passion to achieve something in these areas was very evident.
As has been mentioned, she has been a district councillor for a number of years. Living on one side of Rye and representing a ward on the other side has given her the opportunity to get to know the area – including Rye itself – well and, helped by her experience as a magistrate, to become very aware of the problems as well as the advantages that this part of the constituency has.
She is concerned about the lack of opportunities and jobs for the rising generation and is keen to promote co-operation between businesses, possibly along the lines of the guild recently established in Rye to train young people for the hospitality industry. She was also pleased to hear of the advances that the new trust is making at Rye College and the establishment of the teacher training facility there. It is likely that both will be receiving a visit soon, should she be elected.
But it was not just education, transport too needed continued pressure to ensure that improvements to road and rail communications remained not just on the agenda, but would become a reality. The current lack of a good transport infrastructure was responsible in a large part, for the difficulty in getting businesses to move to the area and thus provide the much needed opportunities for more, and better, jobs.
Drug problems – and yes, they exist in Rye (think of the two cannabis farms raided in recent years) – together with the NHS, specifically the shortage of doctors at the town’s surgeries, as well as policing were all areas that needed to be tackled but with additional funding now being made available for the latter two nationally, she was determined to ensure that Rye received some of the benefit of this.
In her years as a Rother councillor, what were her high points where she felt she had done some good and what was the most difficult thing she had had to do?
Undoubtedly the worst was that, as lead councillor for tourism, it fell to her to be the public face of the council following the tragedy at Camber Sands when five young men drowned quite close to the beach. She admitted it was a very difficult time, both emotionally because of the number and circumstances in which the men died, and also politically because of Rother’s position as the responsible authority for the beach.
One of the most satisfying was that, following a call to visit a housing association property in Rye Harbour which was poorly heated, damp and with mould on the walls, she was able to persuade the housing association to upgrade their Rye Harbour properties and install proper central heating, double glazing and generally give their tenants a proper standard of accommodation. The same housing association also agreed to carry out similar upgrades to all their other properties that required it. The quality of living for a number of people was changed as a result
And finally, Hastings is much bigger with more problems than Rye, so how often will we see her here? Surgeries at least twice a month, was the prompt reply. From our brief acquaintance, I am sure there will be, should she be elected.
Image Credits: John Minter .