A fresh look at car parks


The introduction of parking controls in Rye at some point in 2020, which is aimed at stamping out inconsiderate and illegal parking and stopping people parking on the High Street all day, is one of the most contentious topics covered by Rye News and has generated a range of responses from readers.

One of the most frequent responses is that there are not enough car parking spaces in Rye, which in turn is deterring people from visiting the town.

On a quiet afternoon I took to the streets and counted the number of parking spaces available in Rye’s car parks and estimate that there are over 1,000 across the town, in both car parks owned by Rother District Council (RDC) and those privately operated (and it’s worth noting that number does not include on-street parking spaces).

In a recent comment to a parking article in Rye News, one reader, Molly Bonhomme, wrote “If a driver can not find a suitable parking space on Rye High St., then s/he must park in a proper car park, PAY if necessary, and WALK”.

Molly has touched on an often overlooked point – Rye is a small compact walkable town with a limited number of parking spaces on the High Street, but a number of large car parks.

Parking clogging up Rye’s High Street

With only around 40 parking spaces on the High Street and Hilders Cliff (with an additional five, plus a loading bay, out of service due to the work on The George) the High Street could never feasibly satisfy demand for people who want to park there, locals and visitors alike.

The net result of people looking for a parking space is an endless stream of cars cruising along the High Street when they should be directed to a car park in the first instance and reserve High Street parking for those who need it most, such as people with disabilities.

RDC alone owns six car parks in Rye with a capacity of around 350 (or 550 if you include the overflow car park at Gibbets Marsh). Rye’s largest RDC owned car park is a five minute walk from the centre of town at Gibbet Marsh and has  80 spaces, though more cars could be accommodated if the old recycling bin storage area was removed.

In addition, there are RDC owned car parks either side of the A259 at Skinners roundabout: Lucknow Place can accommodate 70 while Bedford Place a further 60. The Rye Sports Centre car park has 65 spaces; Cinque Ports car park has 32 spaces; and finally The Strand car park, which would win the award for the worst laid out car park in Rye, has 24 spaces.

The coaches line up in Rye’s station car park

In addition to the RDC owned car parks, Rye has a large number of privately operated facilities. There is the huge Market car park, which has a capacity of over 250 and three privately owned car parks along the A259/Winchelsea Road which can accommodate around 100 cars at present.

Further car parks include a large one behind the Kettle of Fish roundabout, with around 90 spaces, the station car park (shown above) with 70 spaces (plus an additional 20 coach parking spaces) and finally the car park at Jempson’s which has 80 spaces.

In total, I estimate that the privately run car parks could accommodate around 590 cars and we arrive at the total of 1,000 figure when Gibbets Marsh’s overflow car park and all the other RDC-owned car parks are added into the mix.

The overflow car park can accommodate over 200 cars, but it is often waterlogged and therefore RDC would need to lay a permeable membrane and reconfigure the site.

Rye has a population of around 4,700 living in approximately 2,000 dwellings. The population increases substantially at the weekends and during the holidays and it’s hard to know if 1,000 spaces is enough.

Sandwich, a comparable medieval Cinque Port town in east Kent has a similar sized population and has half the number of parking spaces, at 525, in its Dover District Council and privately owned car parks.

On busy weekends Gibbet Marsh is still half empty, yet it is only a five minute walk from the Heritage Centre and centre of Rye. This begs the question, is it that Rye doesn’t have enough parking spaces, or is it that people just don’t want to walk?

Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy , Ray Prewer , J. Minter .

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  1. My father lived at Thornsdale Farm at Iden and helped his brothers with a milk round in Rye in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. He moved away with the family at the end of 1936, but kept in touch with his friends (Fred Coleman was one) and as kids we visited the Rye area sometimes fortnightly. I still love to visit and still come to Rye several times a year. I didn’t realise that there was a car park behind the Kettle of Fish roundabout and knew nothing of the Gibbets Marsh car park. Perhaps better car park signage would help?

    • Excellent idea.
      Another issue: Rye does a poor job with signage. Quite often I encounter visitors on Cinq Port St or the Cattle Market asking where the main town is. More, tasteful and small sized signs would useful.

  2. I think drivers simply don’t realise how close Gibbet Marsh is to the town centre. The road entrance seems quite a long walk from the town, so they ignore the car park, not knowing that the footpath at the back across the railway line is only 2 minutes walk from the town centre.
    Maybe better signage, indicating a short cut into town, would encourage more drivers to park there?


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