Town council savages Rother


An extra Rye Town Council (RTC) meeting was held last Monday, February 6 and a principal item on the agenda was a discussion of the swimming pool report following the meeting between RTC, Rother District Council (RDC) and Freedom Leisure (FL), which Rye News commented on last week.

It was immediately apparent that councillors were far from happy with both the attitude of Rother and the amount of information – or lack of it – that was coming from Freedom Leisure.

Despite some exhaustive work by Rye’s advisor, William Coatesworth and the cost estimates that he produced, there are still no detailed figures for the pool coming from Freedom Leisure. Nor was there any indication at this stage, that Rother was prepared to take any action against FL for non-performance of their contract if indeed, the contract allows them to do so.

Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart and Mayor Andi Rivett as the town makes its feelings known

In addition to the pool costs, there is maintenance required to the roof of the building and one councillor suggested that there may also be some capital expenses relating to machinery repairs before the pool could be recommissioned. This was admittedly a guess but, if correct, could also perhaps have influenced the decision to close the pool with so little notice.

Anger was expressed that if Bexhill needed thousands of pounds for the erection of bus shelters in the town and on the sea front, as well as millions in addition to the Levelling Up grant for the De La Warr Pavilion, the money could be found. But if a fraction of that is required for a worthwhile purpose in Rye, Rother were unable, or unwilling, to find it. One councillor with detailed knowledge of the internal workings of the District Council pointed out that not only was it a complete administrational mess currently, but with 18 of the elected district councillors representing Bexhill wards, it was not surprising that decisions on spending were biased in that direction.

It was pointed out that Rother had never wanted the leisure centre to be built, had little interest in it and, although not specifically stated, the inference certainly was that this could account for the lack of firm action to date with Freedom Leisure and that few tears would be shed if the centre closed completely.

On the subject of possible closure, a strong plea was made by Councillor Pat Hughes that plans should now start to be made to consider the possibility of taking over the Leisure Centre, should closure be threatened, and examine how it could be financed and run for the benefit of the town.

The discussion closed with a motion, carried unanimously, that the deputy mayor, Councillor Stuart should be included in future meetings and negotiations.

Public facilities

Whilst the Leisure Centre inevitably took up the greater part of the meeting, also up for discussion was devolved services, i.e. those services to Rye carried out by Rother or contractors employed by Rother. Specific reference was made to the state of the toilets by the station. These are old, usually dirty and generally badly maintained.

The toilet block opposite the railway station

One councillor suggested that the best thing would be to demolish them and build anew and there was further discussion of how money could be raised, possibly from train and bus operators in the event that Rye took the toilet building over. However some councillors felt that this was impractical and that as Rother collected a substantial amount of money every year from the town, they should be left in no doubt that the upkeep of the toilets was their responsibility, and that a firm representation should be made that they and their contractors should carry out that responsibility in a proper and diligent manner.

Tourism support

A more positive note was provided by the deputy town clerk. Following the closure of the visitor information point, she introduced a detailed paper on a strategy to support the tourist industry and visitors to the town.

This included some 26 recommendations to help tourists find their way round the town, discover places of interest, walks, cycle paths, beaches and the sea. This would also involve locals businesses – shops, pubs, restaurants for example and which would be to their benefit as well as the tourist’s.

The council agreed to adopt this and interested parties can obtain further details from the Town Hall.

Town crier competition

As we mentioned recently the Hastings National Town Criers Championship may no longer be held and a report from the Rye town crier, Paul Goring advised that this was moving from a possibility to a probability. He suggested that if the general interest that the championship attracted in Hastings could be transferred to Rye, it would be a significant help to our tourist industry. In addition, not only were the costs relatively small, but with sponsorship from local businesses, there could well be no cost to the council.

Town criers in Hastings

This initiative was warmly encouraged and the council agreed that if the championship did indeed find that it needed a new home, Rye should make every effort to take it on and make it a success. With the other problems facing the town at the moment, this was a welcome a positive step.

And finally…

We have commented before on the absence of our Rother district councillors at town council meetings. Once again their seats were empty and while there were were no reports expected from either of them, a large part of the meeting revolved around events connected with Rother to which they might have been able to add useful comments.

Image Credits: Rye News Library , Kt bruce , Nick Forman , Kt bruce .

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  1. It’s a sad fact to the matter, that ever since Sam Souster, (labour) at district level, and Peter Jones,(Conservative) at County level, we have not seen anyone stepping up to the mark fighting our corner,like those two did for our town.and a timely reminder to others standing to represent our town, please do not treat the town with contempt, once you get elected,like we have seen with others.

  2. Population Rother District 95,000 – Bexhill 45,000 – Rye 10,000 (all rounded up to nearest K). Despite being the largest contributors to Council Tax, Bexhill has a history of under representation and under investment for the last 50 years. Bexhill also has a ‘leisure centre’ in dire need of repair. We should not be arguing for tiny bits of an inadequate amount but working on how to lift THE DISTRICT AS A WHOLE.

  3. If the roof needs repairing to the sports centre has any one costed the installation of solar panels? Two problems potentially solved in one and long term too…..

  4. Val Hunnisett tells us that despite being the largest contributors to Council Tax, Bexhill has a history of under representation and under investment for the last 50 years. That may be so, but I would like to see that statement backed up with facts and figures compared to those of the rest of Rother District.

    I question under investment. There is a new road, Combe Valley Way, running from Queensway in Hastings to the A259, another new road going from Combe Valley Way to Wrestwood Road, these roads removing much of the traffic from the A259, which itself was updated some years ago by the construction of King Offa Way.

    There is no other major road development in the whole of Rother District to anywhere near match the benefits those changes have made. Even the A21 in East Sussex, one of the most dangerous roads in England, has no dual carriageway sections and had no improvements, Robertsbridge by-pass excepted.

    If only Rye, Winchelsea, Guestling, Udimore, Brede and Westfield could benefit from such
    investment and improvements. These are all places where the increasing number of heavy goods vehicles, artics and 8-wheelers, are making life a lot less pleasant for residents than just a few short years ago, they desperately need traffic diverted onto a suitable by-pass rather than through them, as is currently the case.

    My comments might be slightly off-point, I appreciate that RDC does not fund any road improvements, just pavements, which are often in a very poor state of repair. BUT RDC are our represetatives at a low level and should be pushing for improvements that would benefit us all.

    I agree that RDC should be working on how to lift THE DISTRICT AS A WHOLE, but that is the nub of the problem. The residents of the rest of Rother District see so many millions of pounds being spent in Bexhill that they feel more than neglected, in fact ignored, by RDC.

    The millions spent by RDC on Bexhill West Parade, Edgerton Gardens, the de la Warr Pavilion and the Elva Business Centre, Sidley, has little or no benefit to residents living in the outer reaches of the District, but they still have to contribute toward them. I recollect that at one point RDC was deliberating building a hotel near the Bexhill Leisure Centre, I wonder if that idea is still smouldering, or has been conveniently forgotten for now.

    RDC should bear in mind that rural residents also have their needs and desires which need addressing, not just Bexhill.

  5. Thank you again to our Town Council who are doing everything they can to fight our corner! Particularly in regard to Rye Swimming Pool.

  6. Such a shame that Hastings council again are so short sighted & planned to withdraw the low cost of running the Town Crier Championships. This competition has been held in Hastings for 70 years & there has been a town crier here since 1066!. Shame on you Paul Barnet & well done Rye if you could save this competition, be it at a loss to Hastings. The sad part is if Hastings councillors could have obtained a couple of local sponsors it would have continued in our town. We have lost a great event & ultimately our Town Crier who if used more often in the town would have drawn in the tourists.

  7. Sadly, because of a prior commitment, I was unable to attend this Town Council meeting, however, I have participated in all the Town Council’s pool discussions with Rother and Freedom Leisure. I have to say that these meetings have been positive and I have yet to meet anyone at them who does not want to find a way to re-open our pool.

    Whatever our views of Rother and Freedom Leisure we need to maintain our constructive engagement with them in order to identify – and implement – a strategy that provides Rye Leisure Centre as a whole with a sustainable future. Rother has confirmed that it is, in principle, prepared to fund energy-saving measures using centrally-held Community Infrastructure Levy receipts. It is a little easier for it to contribute towards capital (rather than revenue) expenditure and so there is also the prospect of repairs to the fabric of the premises.

    The Levelling Up funding for Sidley and the De la Warr Pavilion was sponsored by Huw Merriman, the MP for the Bexhill & Battle constituency. I don’t think anyone would argue that Sidley is not a deserving case. (Whilst I – and others like me – are sceptical) Rother’s argument is that Levelling Up funding for the Pavilion will be used to increase footfall, leading to greater revenue and a reduction in the c£500,000 pa of subsidy from our Council Tax.

    The Town Council will be meeting with Rother and Freedom Leisure again shortly. After the meeting our direction of travel will be clearer. If it proves to be necessary, there are appropriate community governance models that can be explored.

  8. I have to say, I think it’s sad that local people who are volunteering in their community – whether with RTC, RDC, Rye News or Rye Food Bank – have to come on here and defend themselves from criticism which is often unfair. Of course we need commentaries and scrutiny and debate and review, but we’ll get to the stage where, like Sunday League referees, you won’t be able to find anybody willing to stick their head above the parapet. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, if you think you’d do a better job, stand for election yourself. We need more people ‘doing’ and less people shouting the odds.

  9. Your missing the point Guy, the town council is savaging Rother,thanks too their attitude towards them and the people of Rye. We appreciate the people that give their time for this town,what we do not appreciate is the council being continually run roughshod, by those at district and county level, year in and year out.

    • John Tolhurst, If you have complaints please raise them with your District, County or Town Councillors as appropriate. We are all elected to represent our electorates.
      Even better report individual faults and issues on-line via the District or County (they are linked) websites.
      And as Guy Harris says: You are welcome to stand for election. I can tell you there is more to it than you might think!

  10. The solution is simple. RDC knows the population numbers in every part of Rother. If Rye and its hinterland contain, say, 15% of the district’s population, it should receive 15% of funding. That represents fair distribution. The arguments and recrimination only arise when major projects in Bexhill suck in large amounts of council money and residents elsewhere in Rother feel they’re not getting their fair share. The same division of money should apply to levelling-up funds and so on. If RDC could guarantee that its spending would always be made on this basis, you wouldn’t have a problem. Of course, the counter-argument is that the money has to follow the need, so to speak. The rancorous, angry and bitter conflict between elements of RTC and RDC has to stop.


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