Bexhill – ‘You do not exist’

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There is an article this week (maybe just above this one, and perhaps, reader, you have seen it) by John Howlett bemoaning the state of our historic and lovely Landgate . He is right to complain of a system that allows such an important part of our heritage to fall into disrepair. It is indeed sad to see yet another lump of ancient stonework mutilated by a careless and “don’t care” van or lorry driver as they take a vehicle for which our streets were not designed, through the arch.

However, dear John, that is where we have to part company. The rest of your article is largely an obloquy against the current Westminster administration, which, clearly you do not like. However, whatever you, or I, or our readers (of any political persuasion) may think, the fact remains that the country as a whole chose the austerity route as a solution to our problems rather than any of the others on offer.

But let’s examine the situation. Suppose the result had been different and Mr Milliband was now our prime minister, supported probably by the kilted hordes from north of the border. How would the change have affected the Landgate (for that, after all, was where your argument started). Would we now see, or be about to see, skilled craftsmen repairing damage and engaged in general restoration and would we see the condemned flagpole replaced with the Rye town banner flying proudly from it?

The answer, sadly, is a resounding no. The reason is that Westminster – regardless of which shade of red or blue is in control  – is not interested (you were right, there). Even in these austere days, they would say, there are already other means available to look after our monuments, and be they, the government, red or blue, they would be right. For a number of years now Rother District Council has had the ability to call upon funds to look after the Landgate.

These funds are not substantial, but would certainly have been sufficient either to have had an annual internal clean by hand (rather than once a decade by high pressure hose) and then maybe sealing the pigeon entrances with, say a wire mesh, to say nothing of repairing the floodlights (that have not been working for more years than I can remember), and replacing a rotting flagstaff. If the building could be made safe for visitors, maybe guided tours at a small cost per person would make it self funding.

But none of this (and maybe visitor access would not be practical), as far as I am aware, has even been considered by Bexhill. Why? The answer is easy. They are simply not interested in Rye except as a producer of hard cash in the form of Council Tax, Business Rates and car parking charges. Once those have been demanded and collected, we, so far as Bexhill are concerned, simply do not exist.

It has nothing to do with a lack of appropriate money, after all, what is to stop them (or even our Town Council) asking for a precept of, say £1 per head per annum to maintain our ancient structures. That would probably do it and I doubt if many of even the most financially hard pressed would miss just over 8p a month. There are many instances of Bexhill’s “don’t care” attitude, the latest of which appears to be the upkeep of the old pump in Wish Ward – which was ‘accidentally’ left off the list of the maintenance company employed to look after these things. It is now being cared for by Us. Here. In Rye.

Let us do the same for the Landgate and let’s not just make it an excuse to rail against a government that you, John, personally dislike. We need to look much, much closer to home. If political sniping and in-fighting stops, if we really do have a Town Council with a bit of backbone, for once, who will stand up to Bexhill and, with our support, fight our town’s corner, then it may take time, but we will win and make our little piece of England THE place both for us to live and for others to visit.

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