Row grows on centre demolition

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When Rye Council’s Planning Committee meets Monday night, July 20, at 6.30, it will be asked to consider whether to make representations to Amicus Horizon over the proposed replacement community centre in Tilling Green, particularly in relation to the timing of the demolition of the existing facility. The replacement centre is believed to be too small and local residents believe any interruption to activities there could have a major impact on those who hire and use the existing centre.

Concern has been growing over the past month about the housing association’s plans for housing and a new centre on the former school site in Tilling Green, particularly after nearly two months’ silence since Amicus were asked to talk to the council’s Public Services Committee about their plans, back in April.

Groups and individuals who hire and use rooms in the former school as a community centre were called to a meeting there by Amicus and Rye Partnership on June 26, shown some plans, and asked for their reactions. They were told at the same time that there would be a “pre-consultation” for the community on July 6 between 3pm and 6pm before revised plans were exhibited in August. However, that effectively excluded people at work.

The Town Council decided the following Monday, June 29, to ask Amicus for more time, with the plans and a comment box available in the centre for a further week. However, July 6 was the main time that people from Amicus and Rye Partnership were available to answer questions. The town’s Planning Committee discussed the consultation that evening and decided they needed more information. The Public Services Committee (who had the April minutes of the previous meeting with Amicus before them) discussed it again last Monday, with a Tilling Green representative, before asking next Monday’s Planning Committee to address specific issues about the proposed new centre and how current services will be maintained.

Rye Partnership currently run the centre and have offices there, but plan to do neither in future, though the new building will apparently still be leased to them by Amicus. Tilling Green residents and other centre users are reported to be setting up a Community Interest Company (CIC) to run the new centre.

The Partnership say they have told Amicus who the current users are and what they need. Curiously though, hirer’s representatives were given a questionnaire by Amicus asking what their needs were on June 26, just as Amicus produced plans supposed to meet their needs.

When Amicus spoke to the Town Council in April, it said the new building would be within the footprint of the old building, so users would have to go elsewhere while the old building was demolished and a replacement built. However, Amicus plans now show a new centre on open ground well away from the old school, in the corner nearest the Udimore Road.

It is also not clear whether East Sussex County Council have sold the land yet, as it was used for sports and there may be legal constraints. Rother District Council’s own strategy (and they have to approve any development) also places restrictions on developments involving existing community services, and Amicus say they have yet to find either a builder for their development or, indeed, obtain planning permission.

Amicus do seem to have been successful, though, in stirring up a large number of concerns as a result of their hurried consultation – all of which the Town Council’s Planning Committee will discuss this Monday. Tilling Green Residents Association (TGRA) told last Monday’s Public Services meeting that Amicus “keep changing the goalposts” and both hirers and users of the current centre were very concerned about what would happen. The centre was packed out recently for the TGRA fete which involved many different Rye organisations and was attended by hundreds of people during the day.

Charles Harkness is a Rye Town Councillor

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