The relaxation of Covid-19 rules has meant that town councils can once more meet in person rather than through the medium of the internet. However, there are still rules to be obeyed and in the interests of social distancing, Rye Town Council met on Monday, September 6 in the community centre, where social distancing was so efficient that the mayor and town clerk, on the stage at one end of the hall, could barely be heard by those in the public seats at the opposite end.
A number of items were on the agenda, but those that produced the strongest feelings, and on which all councillors appeared to be largely in agreement, were the future of Rye Hire at its current Rother-owned site, affordable homes, electric vehicle infrastructure and the inadequacies of Rother District Council’s (RDC) planning department.
The business has occupied its current premises on a lease from RDC for nearly 30 years and with a total of seven employees (including the owner, Andy Polley) it has been a much-used asset to the town for all that time. Its lease has now expired and RDC have made it plain that they will require vacant possession of the site to construct an unspecified but, of necessity small, number of affordable homes. They are allowing Rye Hire time to find alternative premises and meanwhile the lease is being extended on a rolling basis, month to month.
Suitable alternative premises matching the very specific needs of providing sufficient internal and external safe storage together with vehicle access and loading space, as well as workshop facilities for their bicycle hire and servicing facility are proving impossible to find. With no security of tenure, it is a very real possibility that the business might have to close, not only depriving Rye of an important business serving many trade and retail customers, but also potentially putting the main wage-earner of seven families out of work.
The town council were unanimous in their view the the behaviour or RDC was highly unsatisfactory. The claim of needing the site for immediate housing was untenable. Not only does the Rye Neighbourhood Plan, which is intended to be a guide for future planning within the town, recommend the retention of the site for its current use, but other sites are available for housing, the most obvious of which is the old school site at Tilling Green, currently run by Rye Partnership who have consistently failed to produce any plan for its future.
It was agreed that both the town council and the public in Rye should press home their views to RDC councillors by the use of social media and also by emailing councillors, in particular the cabinet members, direct. All Rother councillors’ details, including email addresses can be found here.
Rye’s representative at RDC, Councillor Howard Norton was present at the meeting and promised to ensure that the views and strength of feeling of RTC were made clear to Rother. As an added incentive, he was reminded by the mayor that district council elections were only a year or so away.
Planning, affordable homes and green agenda
In his report to the council, Councillor Norton accepted that RDC’s planning department was in a state of chaos with too few staff and difficulty in finding a new head of planning for the department. He promised that an overhaul would be undertaken to improve matters and that as an interim measure outside contractors, Capita, had been called in to assist in reducing the immediate backlog of work. However, when asked just how long it was intended to employ Capita, he was unable to answer.
He advised that the district council’s housing development company, Alliance were building 200 homes in Battle and in answer to questions confirmed that 20% of new developments were intended to be affordable. He was also able to confirm our report last week that RDC were in negotiations with Pontins to house Afghan refugees at their Camber site.
Moving on to the green agenda, he said that RDC was promoting the use of better buses and more electric vehicles generally, but when asked when Rother was going to provide the necessary battery charging facilities in its car parks, he could only say that it would happen at some point but that there was no money at present.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .