On Tuesday, August 11 a group of more than 45 socially distancing people met on the field next to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Rye Harbour to object to plans for 24 hour operation at a nearby industrial site .
John Hornig, one of the instigators of the village action group, spoke first and gave a detailed update of what has happened in the ten days since the initial meeting including an online petition has been set up which has over 700 signatures and is ever-growing.
People had been encouraged to object to the Long Rake Spar (LRS) planning permission proposals to extend the site area, bringing it very near to the church and the Mary Stanford Memorial; to increase the amount of floodlighting; to greatly increase the number of allowable lorry movements, and to extend working hours (and the concomitant noise nuisance) to 24 hours a day.
On Rother District Council’s planning portal more than 160 objections to these proposals have been lodged and there has been good media coverage including BBC South East Today on Sunday evening, and the following morning John spoke to Radio Sussex – and Icklesham’s parish council (which covers Rye Harbour) met on August 10 once again to discuss these proposals in the light of the strength of opposition in the village.
Councillors were horrified to hear of the breaching by LRS of existing conditions and agreed that the company must adhere to their current restrictions. The parish council voted to oppose the current planning application as they are a formal consultee and this carries weight when it is reviewed by RDC’s planning committee.
Dr Barry Yates, manager of the nature reserve at Rye Harbour, spoke next. He talked about the longstanding balance between industry, the village and wildlife and the conflicts that from time to time arise. He informed the meeting that Sussex Wildlife Trust is opposed to 24 hour lighting which would adversely affect the bat population and insects in the special protection area adjacent to the LRS’s site and they are also concerned about the level of noise and disruption caused by extending working hours.
Andrew Whitaker, a resident in the Harbour, then gave us some background information about the company. He had discovered that there was a considerable history of retrospective planning applications by the company in the past. No-one found this surprising.
Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, and a local county councillor said that Rye Harbour was in a better state now than it had ever been and he was concerned about the 10 jobs at LRS – but it was pointed out that the 400,000 visitors a year who come to the nature reserve create far more jobs than LRS ever would.
He was certainly concerned about jobs, but it was pointed out that the objections are not related to shrinking the site, nor impacting their currently consented operations. Long Rake spar confirmed that those recently working on the night shift are now working on the day shift.
Regular overnight floodlit work
Kenny Dean, representative for LRS, told the group that there had been no work going on at night for the last week and there were no plans to move lorries at night in the future. This was met with a great deal of scepticism by villagers. He said that Rother District Council had given permission to work outside permitted hours during the Covid-19 situation.
It was reported in the meeting that over recent months there had regularly been floodlit work going on from 4am until 2am the next day. There followed some heated discussion from those present, revealing the intense feelings that the villagers and those who live in surrounding areas have to these proposed extensions to working practices and to extending the area of work.
Rother District Councillor Rev Howard Norton from Rye and Winchelsea ward was in attendance and was supportive of the group.
The LRS representative announced that some of the planning applications have been amended making some of the ambiguous points more clear-cut, but it is plain that people want to know if the company will listen to the concerns of the local people and visitors and stick to their permitted current working conditions.
Dr Barry Yates said after the meeting, “I was very pleased with positive nature of the meeting. None of us want to see job losses and we all want to work alongside the industries in the Harbour but the noise and lighting we have experienced over the last couple of months has been unacceptable.’
Image Credits: Rye Bay Harbour resident , Rye Harbour Nature Reserve .