When we set out in early 2013 to make a Neighbourhood Plan, we had no idea that in late 2018 we would still be planning the final stages! It has been a long haul involving lots of people, but there is already evidence that we have achieved what Neighbourhood Plans set out to do, to enable the community to influence development.
Five years of strategic and comprehensive planning for Rye, arguably the first time it has ever been done, has involved numerous twists and turns because of the uncertainty about sites and the developers who have come and gone. Amicus Horizon (now Optivo), Sainsbury’s, Tesco, McCarthy and Stone are just a few who came, saw and failed to conquer.
To react to such changes has demanded imagination and flexibility. The Community has and continues to have much to say in shaping the direction of the Plan.
On September 3, Rye Town Council (which owns the Plan) endorsed the recent work of the Steering Group resulting in Version 11 of the Plan with all its supporting documents.
Although it is the Rye Plan, made by people in the community, we have worked closely with Rother District Planning Officers on all details. Latterly we have been ably supported by a qualified Town Planning Consultant. Austerity, changing national policy and a rising number of plans has meant that Rother planners have significant workload, but we have just agreed an outline which should see us over the finishing line.
For those who know little of the detail, we should remind that throughout the process, the papers and developments have been reported continually at meetings and on the Steering Group’s website and Facebook Page.
On October 12 we will meet Rother Planning Officers to agree any final tweaks. After which we will submit the Plan to Rother District for them to carry out a further consultation dictated by Regulation 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations. We have just bid for an external examiner to say whether it is sound and does not conflict with any national planning rules. We hope to have an examiner who is familiar with historic towns, flood risk and development viability.
After that we look to the external examination in the New Year, completed in time for a community (Yes/No) referendum to coincide with local elections in the spring. If there is simple majority support by the Rye electorate then the Plan will be made and take on statutory status, meaning that developers and planners must have regard for the Plan up to and until 2028.
There are still issues that could blow us of off course, but naturally we have contingency for these. For instance, we do not yet know the impact of the BP appeal this month for its proposal for a petrol station and food outlet off Udimore Road. Version 11 of the Plan considers the proposal but makes no allocation for the BP preferred site.
We await the final plan for the Eastern Rother Tidal Walls scheme as this impacts on flood risk mitigation for the New Road area including the former Freda Gardham School. We have considered in the Plan the proposals for the Rock Channel but will wait to see the firm proposal. The Greenway proposal remains on the agenda; is part of the Plan but could be affected by any new Network Rail proposal for crossings of the River Tillingham; the earlier proposal for the latter having been withdrawn.
Finally, with national debate about the impact of second or holiday homes on supply of homes for those on low incomes, we wait to see whether the Plan deals adequately with the issues. What has become clear is that self or custom build of new homes remains one of the only ways of acquiring lower cost housing. The Plan makes provision for this for those with the determination and ambition to tackle it.
The Plan will remain on the agenda of each fortnightly Rye Planning and Townscape Meeting. Further updates will appear on the web and in the local Press.
Image Credits: Rye Neighbourhood Plan .