Rye’s Town Council meeting on Monday June 24, started with two controversial issues – Government funding for hard-pressed local authorities, and a proposed wildflower meadow on Rye’s Salts, the open grassy area next to the River Rother.
But other issues discussed and raised included parking (both daytime street parking and overnight stays in car parks); the impact of next year’s VE (Victory in Europe) celebrations on Rye’s mayor-making ceremony; the work of the town steward; and the appointment of a new Freeman of the Town of Rye.
Opposition to the wildflower plan failed to get support after Rye News Editor John Minter (following the circulation of a document from the groups proposing the wildflower meadow, Rye Amenity CIC and Rye Wildflower Meadow Trust) addressed the council in the opening part of the meeting – when reports are received and the public can make comments.
He spoke about Rye News’ publication of apparent concerns about the plan, and he comments further in this week’s edition on this newspaper’s policy on the “Opinions” and “Comments” which it publishes.
The rest of the meeting was very quiet, though the following private session behind closed doors on Town Hall staffing matters was allegedly livelier – and yesterday’s (Thursday’s) vote on the town’s Neighbourhood Plan (NP) was an issue always lurking in the background.
The NP vote is expected to be counted today (Friday) by Rother District Council and Rye News will publish the news as soon as it becomes available.
An immediate issue concerning the council – and probably the town’s businesses as well – is what sort of summer will it be, and this week proved to be both noisy, wet, sweaty and hot with thunderstorms as well as rising temperatures.
And visitor numbers and the weather have been as variable and unpredictable as any Parliamentary decisions on leaving the European market (Brexit) and this may have contributed to equally variable results from the council-run Heritage Centre for visitors on Strand Quay for the council to worry about on Monday.
Parking and other issues
The meeting started however with reports from our local councillors on East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and Rother District Council (RDC).
ESCC leader Keith Glazier made it clear he was keeping up pressure on the Government to ensure there was adequate funding for the services the council had to supply. He said that increasing costs, and increasing demands, as well as their complexity, meant there had to be more certainty about funding.
Commenting on ESCC’s formal consultation on the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) he welcomed the town council’s involvement in the process and in forward planning.
CPE is being introduced on the basis of existing parking controls at the request of the RDC, he said, and that is what was being put in place.
It would involve automatic parking meters controlling on-street parking and in those circumstances ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) machines would not be appropriate – though councillors raised the issue of their use in the context of some initial free parking.
He explained that while ANPR might work in a car park with a single entrance and exit, it would not work in ordinary streets; but he has previously said that CPE would be reviewed once it was introduced to see what improvements might be needed.
In many other towns the introduction of meters has displaced cars (and their owners wishing to avoid paying) to streets without meters, and CPE has had to be extended to more streets with either meters or residents’ permits.
Anthony Kimber, vice chair of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said as much as possible had been done to encourage people to vote in yesterday’s (Thursday’s) referendum on the plan and, if it is agreed, there will need to be close liaison with the RDC over the Community Interest Levy (CIL) paid by developers.
One scheme that might benefit from CIL could be the proposed bridge over the River Tillingham for pedestrians and cyclists between Tilling Green and Love Lane which has not been mentioned recently but which may be given added impetus by the school closure of the footpath.
Centre under pressure
Despite various changes being made at the Heritage Centre to reduce losses, more may be needed as the year had a poor start with reductions in opening hours also seeing cuts in the revenue received.
However full opening hours start as the main part of the visitor season kicks off, and revenue may improve. But a working group may be revived to look at the problem – and Brexit indecision continues to be a factor for visitors from the nearer parts of Europe.
Visitors from America and the Far East appear to be less affected by this, but councillors had no immediate solutions to help the Heritage Centre.
The announcement of a Bank Holiday for VE Day next year in place of the usual Bank Holiday when Rye holds its mayor-making may mean that ceremony being shifted to VE Day – and a working group may have to consider this.
A working group may also have to look at the role of town steward and whether it should be extended.
The wildflower meadow proposal was then briefly discussed and it became apparent that the just-circulated background information on the proposal might have meant that the matter might not have been raised at all. And the council agreed to support the proposal announced by the RDC – with only one against.
RDC’s consultation on its car parks had been discussed at an earlier meeting without reaching a decision and the decision on this occasion was not to make any comments.
The council did decide, though, to hold a Special Meeting on July 8 to consider the proposal that Aagot Anne Wood be made an Honorary Freeman.
Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy , Rye News library , Kenneth Bird .