Now that the new building on Cinque Ports Street has been uncovered, stripped of its camouflage, opinions are strongly divided about its architectural merits. “It’s hideous”, says one resident. “It looms tall seen from Station Approach”, says another, “but people will get used to it”.What about the planners? They saw the contemporary design as in tune with what has come to be called the “Rye vernacular”, with its hint of the Strand Quay warehouses. “The vertical rhythm of five gable bays of differing widths affords this massing appropriate proportions in its street-scene context”, quotes the report to Rother District Council’s Planning Committee.
English Heritage had expressed initial objections to the bulk of the building, but these were largely met by amendments made to the roof-line, by architects Jonathan Dunn and Partners of Rye.
It is also a fact that there was an existing consent for a development on the site and therefore any developer would have a strong case for appeal if the final scheme were seen in most respects as an improvement on the consented scheme. Whatever we might think of the final outcome, it is evidently much better than the ten year eyesore gap of the former Central Garage site.
Steve Restall, site manager for Jenners Contractors of Folkestone, told me that the project is due for completion in October this year. More immediately, the tower crane will be dismantled on Sunday August 2, so another seemingly permanent Rye landmark will disappear. At least one carriageway in Cinque Ports Street will be closed on Sunday, whilst contractors use a mobile crane to dismantle the site crane piece by piece, hoisting it over the top of the building.
Meanwhile, the debate goes on. Like it or hate it – What do our readers think?
[Editor’s Note: When Rye Town Council’s Planning Committee recently discussed housing proposals for the Rock Channel area, building height and design was one of their concerns and this new building in Cinque Ports Street was mentioned in terms of “skyline creep” with high new buildings affecting and hiding the historic rooftops and skyline of Rye’s older Citadel area.]
Photo: Kenneth Bird