How well does Rother District Council care for the Landgate? I found out by making a Freedom of Information request on expenditure and inspections.
“Woefully, the Landgate is severely neglected.” Many people would agree with that description. It is, in fact, one I found in an article published in the Rye Observer of May 9 2008.
Rye’s iconic building was handed into the care of Rother District Council after local government reorganisation in the early 1970s. I checked the budget books of Rother council for details of expenditure on the Landgate but ancient monuments in the district are grouped together as a single item. I have to say not much has been spent on the whole collection!
So I emailed Rother to ask for specific information on Landgate. I was told that the relevant officer was on an extended trip to the Antipodes and any questions had to await his/her return. Surely the Landgate file wasn’t in the luggage? Was it?
That’s why I made a request under the Freedom of Information Act, using the WhatDoTheyKnow? website, where questions and replies are public. Anybody can read them; the full texts are there. Rother’s democratic services officer replied within the prescribed time and answered my two subsequent requests for clarifications.
So what did I find out?
I found out what routine maintenance is carried out on the Landgate
There isn’t any
I found out what inspections are carried out on the Landgate
An officer carries out a visual inspection four times a year when he/she reads the electricity meter
So what costs are there?
The main cost is the insurance of the building. That does not include public liability insurance, but Rother has a policy that covers all its buildings against accidents on the premises. The Landgate is somewhat unusual in that a road runs underneath it and I trust that this feature is understood by the insurer
So has any work been done on the Landgate?
Not since 2011-12
That year, the walkways were cleaned (£350), and the anti-pigeon netting installed (£1,700). The previous year, the pigeon debris was cleared (£480)
Yes, two attempts to repair the clock
Yes, along with strangely variable annual electricity bills ranging from £27 to £207, there are electrical repairs costing £1,568. This might puzzle some people as the construction of the Landgate predated electricity by many centuries, but they reckon without the good offices of the Rye Partnership and the European Union.
The Rye Observer reported on March 11 2004 that a grant of “nearly £300,000” had been secured by the Rye Partnership from the EU Interreg 111 fund, and some of this money was earmarked for the “long awaited illumination of the Landgate Arch”.
We got money from Brussels instead of the other way round. What a result!
But, while the Spanish can still drive down their EU-funded motorways, Rye’s EU-funded ancient monument is shrouded in darkness. The illumination was completed at the end of October 2006, only eight years ago. Things seem to have gone wrong very quickly, some say from day one.
At Monday’s council meeting [December 8], I asked Rother councillor Lord Ampthill if the cash-strapped district council had attempted to recover costs from the contractor and whoever supervised, commissioned and signed off the work on a monument of which it has legal ownership.
I understand that no agreement could be reached between the “partners”. So has it just been written off?
What a sad waste of the stuff they call public money and what a lack of care and interest all this shows in the Landgate.
Photo: Nick Taylor