Rye Partnership faces questions

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Ill informed: Keith Glazier referred his audience to Rye Partnership's new website - but it isn't working yet

Rye Partnership held a Members’ meeting at Tilling Green Community Centre just as developers Amicus Horizon announced a consultation in July about their plans for the former school site.  Rye Partnership is a community organisation set up in 1996 and dedicated to social and economic development in Rye and the surrounding villages. It has recently been responsible for keeping the old school open as a community centre and negotiating with Amicus over its future.

Partnership chairman Keith Glazier, who is also leader of East Sussex County Council (ESCC), said Amicus and the ESCC had agreed the terms of the sale but this had not yet taken place. He was unable to say whether the council had obtained the necessary consent to sell the playing field for development. Playing fields have been protected from development by law since 1996. Partnership director Ian Ross, who leads on the community centre project and is responsible for public consultation about the centre’s future, was not at the meeting.

There were three directors present – Glazier, Gina Sanderson and Rye Town Councillor Jo Kirkham. No director has been appointed to replace Sam Souster who has resigned. Two other directors sent their apologies. There were about 15 members present including the chairmen of Camber and Icklesham parish councils and one Rye Town Councillor – Rebekah Gilbert.

Glazier said the new community centre would now be a single storey building and would be let by Amicus on a peppercorn rent to Rye Partnership. It, in turn, would seek a suitable tenant to run the centre. Sanderson said the Partnership was working to try and ensure that the centre would be closed for the shortest possible time, although the site could be inaccessible during the whole of the construction period.

Glazier produced a rough financial report that showed a trading surplus for the Rye Partnership. This account raised more questions in the audience than answers including one about interest payments. In response to this Glazier said the Partnership had sold the property it owned in Cinque Ports Street and the proceeds had been used to reduce borrowing. A brief look at the  2014 accounts shows that at the end of March 2014 the Partnership owed £294,192 to creditors and interest and other charges amounted to £6,754. The trading loss for last year was £96,006.

In response to further questions he explained that for the current financial year £2,340 professional charges had been incurred as a result of a dispute with the former tenant at Cinque Ports Street and that £16,347 costs had been incurred in cleaning up the fish market building after the tenant left.

Glazier gave a breakdown of the properties owned by the Rye Partnership. These include the freehold of the Rye Harbour stores and the flats above which are all let. It also has a 90-year lease from the Environment Agency on the Fisheries building, which is now let to Chapmans, and a 30-year lease on the Yacht Centre – an area of land used for the storage and mooring of yachts which includes two flats that are also let.

He said five of the directors had held an “away day” to review the Partnership’s activities and as a result it was going to hand over some responsibility for the remaining two current projects to Rother Voluntary Action. These are the Rural Employability project and the Community Learning project funded by Sussex Coast College. The funding for both these projects runs out in September. Glazier said he wanted to return to the original core aims of the Rye Partnership and told us that these could be seen on the new website http://www.ryepartnership.org/

But the website is still under construction – as the photo, top, demonstrates.

Glazier did not agree with the view that there was nothing the Partnership did now that could not be done by Rye Town Council and he was supported in this view by one or two members. There is another Partnership meeting at the end of September. Membership of the Rye Partnership costs £1 and members are notified of the meetings and are able to vote.