Special offer – but who for?

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No longer looking like the entrance to a supermarket

BOGOF – Buy one get one free as the supermarket advert shouts – if only!

Supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury’s are pulling out of Rye after a four year stalemate which meant that neither could open a supermarket. Instead Sainbury’s (who own the main site) and Tesco (who bought the Ferry Road access) are jointly selling the land they own on and around the former Lower School Thomas Peacocke site; and they say it is because “shopping patterns have changed considerably with an increasing focus on convenience and online shopping”.

But who will buy this “special” offer? The joint site has been offered, they say, to selected retailers and developers. It is quite possible that another supermarket, perhaps a discounter like Lidl or Aldi, or a more upmarket store like Waitrose which is dealing with increasing competition, might open on the Rye side of Hastings. Delivery vans from these and other supermarkets are frequently seen around town delivering on-line orders.

The full Town Council has not yet had a change to discuss this development, which was reported to Monday’s Planning Committee. The mayor, councillor Bernardine Fiddimore, said that the land is privately owned and if no retailer was interested the supermarkets would look to identify a developer for “other purposes”. However the site has not been identified in the draft Neighbourhood Plan as one of the possibilities for new housing – see link; and Rye is only required to provide a limited amount of new housing in addition to those now being built or in hand.

The Tilling Green school site, for instance, is currently subject to negotiations with the county council and may provide up to 40 homes together with a much smaller community centre. The mayor also said that the county and district councils were discussing this development, and Ann Cockerham from Rye Academy Trust (covering Rye College and the Studio School) said they had no capital reserves and it was doubtful if the county council would step in to re-acquire the land, sold by them in 2010. However Rother District Council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan says extra pre-school and primary school places are critically important in Rye, and the county council has a statutory duty to ensure school places are available.

Rye’s Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group meet early next week and it is expected to consider this site’s future, the Planning Committee was told, and the Town Council has already approved plans for the Primary School to cope with growing numbers. But the limited land available around the schools is already used for playtime, sports, allotments and the new community garden. Local MP Amber Rudd – see link – was already preparing to bang the supermarkets’ heads together over the four year stalemate, and she may now have to intervene on behalf of the schools.

The supermarkets say in their letter to the town councillors that they want to facilitate a “positive development for the benefit of the Rye community”; and Rye News would like to hear from you what you think is best on this site for the Rye community. Read one view – see  link – on our Opinions page and, if you have a view, contact us link at Rye News.

Photo: Ray Prewer