Landgate – update and questions

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The Landgate has probably suffered more damage from Rother District Council's neglect than the French ever managed to inflict during the 100 years war

Poor, neglected, ancient monument of Rye! Taken into the care of the District Council in the early 1970s, its apparent deterioration under a protective coating of bird droppings and vegetation has worried many people. But information from Rother about the Landgate has been hard to come by.

So, at the end of last year I made a request to the District Council under the Freedom of Information Act. I wanted to find out about routine maintenance of the Landgate and how much was budgeted for its upkeep. The results were detailed on these pages and on the WhatDoTheyKnow? website. As for any recent maintenance programme, we found that Rother read the electricity meters regularly.

Then this year, the poor Landgate was subjected to a cleaning so intensive that Andy Stuart expressed concerns in Rye News about potential damage to the structure.

After the cleaning, Rother proposed to send in a specialist architect to report on the Landgate’s condition. Action at last!

Then it all went quiet.

Here’s an update on progress:

The specialist architect, John Bailey of Thomas Ford and Partners, did examine the Landgate and he did submit a report to Rother.

On April 21, Rother officers met to consider what the District Council  refers to as his report on the condition of the Landgate.

Rother now awaits a second report from the same specialist, which they expect to receive in the next six to eight weeks, so presumably by mid June.  This will give detailed specifications for the works the architect recommends in the short, medium and long term.

It seemed sensible to ask for a copy of the initial report so I did. To my amazement, the powers that be in Rother refused to reveal its contents.

I don’t understand why because in the absence of fact, people conjecture. And conjecture wildly. They may think Rother District Council is trying to hide something when there may be nothing to hide. They may think that the condition of the Landgate is much worse than first thought and that a regimen of meter reading and bird poo coating may have contributed to its decline. This may not be true.

So, the solution is in your hands, Rother chief executive, disclose the report to the residents of Rye!  They have paid for it through their council tax so I reckon that it belongs to them, anyway.

My queries to Rother received very prompt and helpful replies from officers. One sentence in the last email made me think:

It said that the second report, comprising the detailed specifications, will “guide RDC or any future custodians on what will be required”.

A few questions come to mind:

  • Is this an indication that the present custodian wishes to be shot of its responsibility for the ancient monument and shot of it fast?
  • What body with wealth and professional expertise could take it over and save Rother what may be serious money – English Heritage or the National Trust perhaps?
  • Will the Rye Partnership ask to take it on and tap Brussels for another grant, such as that which funded their renowned and highly successful illumination of the Landgate some years ago?
  • Will Rye Town Council organise a Landgate Working Group to add to all the other Working Groups  that seem to never meet?

Mary Smith has sadly not stood again for election as a Rye Town Councillor. She will be missed