Same site, different battle


Two years after supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury abandoned their  fight to develop land alongside Rye’s railway station because of changing shopping patterns,  another fight seems to be brewing over the same land.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) had sold the former Lower School Thomas Peacocke site for supermarket development, but the entrance (pictured above) by the Queen Adelaide internet cafe and restaurant by the Ferry Road level crossing remains boarded up and unused. And no other supermarkets have come forward to develop the site.

There were  hints two years ago that Rye Academy was looking for new buildings because the old building was in need of repairs. Also another factor in wanting new buildings was that a local baby boom meant the primary school added first temporary and then permanent classrooms this year to cope with increasing numbers.

Rye Academy’s need for new buildings was confirmed late in 2014 by them and by a fire the following  year  which made the need even more acute. But since then there has been silence.

The government’s academy programme has meant responsibility for secondary education has largely passed back to Whitehall leaving East Sussex County Council mainly responsible just for primary provision. But the cost of the academies, and the failure of some to deliver expected results, may now be behind the government’s just-announced new emphasis on selective grammar schools – which appears to undermine academies.

In the meantime parents, free to vote with their feet, and with ESCC having no apparent role to play in secondary education , may be choosing to send their children to schools outside Rye on the basis of past comparative results, leaving a situation where the baby boom is filling up the primary school, but the secondary demand may be being met by other schools elsewhere.

Rye’s Planning Committee has been told that it is unclear what progress has been made by Rye Academy Trust to secure government backing for a bid for the site and therefore funding for the scheme, and that instead consultants were planning a scheme for 78 dwellings on the site.

The developer has not been identified, but Rother District Council (RDC) is aware of the scheme which includes access from Ferry Road by the Queen Adelaide.

Rye’s  Neighbourhood Plan, which is still in draft form and has yet to be voted on in the town, did not identify the site for housing, but may have to revisit this in light of the planned development of the Tilling Green school site for housing being withdrawn because of flooding issues and  subsequent uncertainty about that site.

The other former school site in New Road, also affected by flooding concerns, had been considered for a “second supermarket”, but changes in people’s shopping habits and the increase in online shopping with home deliveries in particular, may mean the Neighbourhood Plan will now include no new supermarket at all.

However Costcutters, on the roundabout near the Landgate has said it may expand with the move of Skinner’s garage to Rye Harbour providing space for growthh  what is currently a very limited site.

Town councillors have expressed concern about the number of planning decisions they made which were ignored and overridden (even where there were obvious problems like the dangerous Deadmans Lane) by RDC and its officers who, it seemed, approved anything provided it ticked all the boxes, even if there was a known and obvious problem, for fear of costly challenges by applicants.

Rye councillors feared that as a result Rye’s Neighbourhood Plan would simply be ignored and want reassurance from RDC that this would not happen.


Photo: Rye News library

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  1. For the record, the Rye Neighbourhood Plan identifies the site for 4 optins: education, commercial , housing and other such as parking. To date there are two proposals: one by the Rye Academy Trust which the Trustees are pursuing with central Government and one by an unidentified developer who has a team working up a housing scheme.


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