We chose this image for our final lead story of the year because it is more than a warm wish. It is a message that once was banned. It is a message almost all of us will echo before the day is out, one we have wished for centuries. According to an entry in Wikipedia, the first known usage of any Christmas greeting dates from 1565, when it appeared in The Hereford Municipal Manuscript: “And thus I comytt you to God, who send you a mery Christmas”
But the merry officials of Rother District Council decided in the summer of last year that the message was an advertisement and should not be displayed. It contravened Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 2007 and Town & Country Planning (Listed Buildings) Act 1990. And thus it came to pass that last Christmas the illuminated sign erected under the auspices of the Rye & Winchelsea Rotary Club did not appear in Rye to greet residents and tourists as they rounded the top of Hilder’s Cliff and entered the High Street.
The letter from a Mr P Casey of Rother said: “It has been brought to my attention that an advertisement is being displayed on the exterior wall of the above property [114 High Street, Rye]. Advertisement Consent/Listed Building Consent has not been granted for this. Whilst it is open to you to submit a retrospective application to retain the sign it is my opinion that it is unlikely to be recommended for approval.”
It went on to say that the display of the sign was an offence and the sign should be removed “within the next 48 hours” or legal action will commence.
Rotary clubs exist to help communities. Members turn generous donations into grants that fund work around the world. They provide humanitarian services and work to build goodwill and peace in the world.
The illuminated sign is back on the wall. Someone has seen the light.
Derick Holman, who with his wife Margaret, runs Past & Present in the High Street, explained to Rye News: “Clive Gilbert from Rye Rotary was able to convince the council that the sign had no commercial message and should not be classified as advertising and, so, after missing a year of greeting visitors to Rye, the sign will once again bring Christmas cheer to the town. Rye Rotary is grateful to Linda Gilfrin for the annual assistance that she gives by allowing the sign to be displayed on her premises. Charitable collections will be made by the club over six or seven days during the Christmas shopping season in Market Road, Rye, and contributions from the public will benefit local worthy causes.”
We wish Rye Rotary members, Linda Gilfrin and all our readers exactly what appears in this cheery sign. A merry Christmas. And a happy new year. Even you Mr Casey.
Photo: Tony Nunn