At the eleventh hour a team of locals has put together a bid to secure the 71-acre Camber Fields site for community ownership. And the offer, which is to go through the Rye Fund, is for the full £70,000 despite concerns about part of the site containing hazardous waste, including asbestos, in what was the old town dump.
Speaking on behalf of the group of local Ryers who are concerned about the possible loss of this asset (which used to belong to Rye until it was given away to Rother for nothing in the early 1970s local government reorganisation), and who have in a matter of days raised the necessary funds, Mike Eve said “The Rye Fund expressed interest to Rother back in June last year that it was interested in acquiring this site to secure it for the local community, and we were disappointed to hear nothing back until a couple of weeks ago when Rother suddenly announced it was to be sold off at auction in London on May 9!
Since then Rother has refused to withdraw the land from the auction, which has a guideline price of £70,000, despite requests by Rye Town Council to do so, in order that a local bid could be prepared to buy back land the town used to own!
Kenneth Bird, who is also part of the team who have organised the community bid added: “We are delighted that despite this refusal, and a busy Bank Holiday, we were able to make a written offer to Rother on Tuesday May 3 afternoon for the full guideline price and are now asking Rother to accept it and to withdraw the land from the auction next Monday.”
Since the auction cannot guarantee that the seller will get £70,000 for the land, the locals behind this exciting bid stress that they believe that as a public body, Rother should take the offer on the table rather than gamble with a public asset.
Despite concerns about the former town dump, erosion by the river, and the Environment Agency still to confirm the reinforcing or building of new sea defences, Camber Fields has value for the local community in many ways. It holds a strategic position on the visual horizon from Rye, it is a popular walking and cycling area, it provides grazing for sheep and it is central to the Rye Fawkes celebrations since this is from where the firework display is launched.
“All in all we believe that this is part of Rye’s heritage and should not end up being sold to distant property speculators,” says Mike Eve. “I urge Ryers to contact Rother immediately in support of our community bid and to ask them to withdraw it from Monday’s auction. Since the officer in charge of the sale of this and other Rother assets at the auction is on leave, I suggest you make your feelings known to Malcolm Johnston who is the Director of Resources. His email is Malcolm.Johnston@rother.gov.uk “
Since the above was written, a reply has now been received from Rother:
“The forthcoming auction of this piece of land has generated a number of enquiries. In order that the Council is seen to be open and transparent it has been concluded that the auction of this lot will proceed. The land comes with the benefit of a secure agricultural tenancy. We have however strongly encouraged the Rye Fund to submit their offer to the auction.”