Let’s get it right

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Gibbet Marsh car park, very underused

Last week, Rye News ran a piece on the proposed parking changes following a review of the Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) system installed almost 2 years ago and which is due to be discussed by the Town Council this coming Monday, August 8.

The restriction of parking within the town centre has inevitably resulted in one or two hotspots around the edge. Some of these are dealt with in the proposed changes, others, such as Tilling Green and even as far afield as Valley Park, are not.

Some of this is addressed elsewhere in this week’s issue, but in reality this is just tinkering with a problem that has been discussed many times before in these pages and that is simply that Rye is a medieval town with its last major redevelopment in the 15th century, trying to cope with the requirements of the 21st century. Parking meters, residents parking and several miles of ugly doubly yellow lines are just the town planners’ equivalent of putting a sticking plaster on a compound fracture – it might look good for a very short time, but it will not be the cure that is needed.

High Street could be traffic free

Surely the time has now come when, for the sake of preserving our ancient town as well as improving the quality of life here both for us and future generations, we need to be adventurous and ambitious in discussing solutions.

In essence the problem is a simple one: i) we need less traffic in the town centre using roads to which it is not suited and: ii) the displaced traffic needs to have somewhere to go that will not unnecessarily inconvenience residents or cause a danger to other road users.

One possible answer to i) is to pedestrianise the High Street from East Street onwards, remove all parking on East Street and on one side of Market Street, both of which could them become two-way streets. This would allow access to the upper streets in the citadel which would be residents parking only. The High Street would become a far more pleasant place with no vehicles (and therefore no lines of parked cars), shopping would be easier there, and other towns that have experimented with this idea have often found a significant increase in trade.

This then begs the question of ii) where would the displaced vehicles go? This, I fear, is going to require some money to be spent – an anathema to all councils large and small. But there are solutions if ESCC and possibly Rother DC are brave enough to embrace them.

At the moment, in addition to metered bays, there are car parks in Cinque Ports Street, the cattle market (although not available for a large part of each Thursday), the station, the Salts, the Strand, Winchelsea Road and Gibbet Marsh. Currently, outside the tourist season, these are entirely adequate. In fact the Winchelsea Road car parks are rarely full and the same goes for Gibbet Marsh which could be made, with upgrading, to cope with far more vehicles than it does now and urgently needs better signposting.

The vacant old lower school site

From April through to early September, however, it is a different matter, particularly bearing in mind vehicles displaced from the centre, but again there is a solution. The old lower school site off Ferry Road has been empty and unloved ever since the supermarket fiasco. It is currently designated for housing (but not the much needed ‘affordable’ or social housing) and the developers have shown no sign of wanting to use it. It could be re-acquired by either ESCC or RDC (or both) and is a big enough site to accommodate a large number of cars – in fact if a 2-story car park was built it would probably solve all current parking problems as well, possibly, as providing reserved spaces for any residents who were no longer able to park outside their own homes. The location would put it largely out of sight of the surrounding area yet within a few minutes walk of the town centre – and even fewer minutes if a pedestrian bridge was put across the railway direct from the car park.

Existing CPE regulations together with any additions or changes proposed during the current consultation, should take care of non-residents clogging up residential roads.

The above is just one suggestion. Our readers will doubtless have many ideas of their own but the message here to our various councils must be, be brave, let’s do a proper job once and for all.

Image Credits: Rye News library , Kenneth Bird , Kevin McCarthy .

17 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds a good idea from John minter,if the developer is not going to build on the old lower school site,the council should compulsory purchase it from them, as it would make an ideal carpark nearer the town, and then Gibbets marsh carpark, which has always been underused, could be used for social housing, which are much needed in the town,and would see Rother district council contributing to this crisis.

  2. Make long term off road parking free. If Gibbet Marsh were free a lot of commuters, town workers and residents would use it. Takes 5 minutes to take the signs down. And at the other end of town buy the unused field from Rye Tennis Club and make another free car park ( no sign they will ever build on it). Put in the restrictions suggested along the whole length of Military Road.

  3. I’m in agreement with the comments above, this would help with the very congested Military Road and other parts of the town

  4. Good article and some good suggestions above. It’s unlikely any developer or council would give up the opportunity to build housing on the lower school site but it would make an ideal place for a visitor car park for the town.

    In addition I’d like to make an obvious and more controversial suggestion (yes, I can see the responses coming in): increase the Salts car park space to cover the part of the salts where the annual bonfire is constructed – This would create (I’m guessing here – I used to design hospitals not car parks) about 150 extra spaces. Oh the bonfire: shift it along 200m – that would also probably prevent the long grass growing that people seem to be upset about. Actually, I see the salts ‘long grass’ has been cut – this is the correct time to mow if one is trying to create a wild flower environment: that’s cool … well done RDC.

  5. Does John Tolhurst every use Gibbets marsh? This car park is full in summer and sometimes overflowing. The overflow field is used every day for people taking exercise and dog walking. I’ve even seen people picnicking here in the Summer and children playing ball games. More housing although badly needed would take away a beautiful green space, once it’s gone it’s gone for ever.

  6. Good point from Phil Law, I’ve been suggesting for years that the middle Salts,should turned into a carpark, it could be closed for the funfair and bonfire at certain times of the year, Rye Town Council have been reluctant to do this to ease our parking problems, but if it’s a bowls match it seems okay then, I’m not knocking the bowls club,but the old saying, what is good for the Goose, is good for the Gander

    • Nothing to do with Rye Town Council, which hasn’t owned the Salts for nearly 50 years! No wonder it has been reluctant to to close the Salts, because it can’t.

  7. Once again, and as I’ve said goodness knows how many times before, the question of deliveries to High Street businesses cannot be ignored. You cannot pedestrianise the High Street without finding a workable solution to this issue. Please don’t start talking about business owners telling their suppliers to deliver within certain time slots. You have more chance of finding fairies at the bottom of your garden!

    The article is also very typical of those which suggest solutions that will negatively impact on many people but will only positively benefit those who suggest them. We’ve seen this time and again in RN (who really should know better). I live on East Street and I don’t want to see it, or Market Street, being two-way simply to fit in with your writer’s schemes. It really is incredibly selfish and inconsiderate to make such suggestions!

  8. No more concrete and or tarmac in a lovely old town PLEASE. There is plenty of parking already the problem is those who are as always looking for a FREE spot .
    AND YES pedestrianize the High Street for much of its length .

  9. I’ve said it time and time again, the High street could be pedestrianised from Adams to Bennets, allowing delivery drivers only to park and unload on one side,to deliver their goods. Problem solved in easing the congestion in the high street, with all their vans parked on the right hand side pavement.

  10. So yet another example of the “I want it so it must be a good idea” school of thought!

    If the stretch of the High Street between Adams and Bennetts is closed off, all lorries and delivery vans plus all other traffic will be diverted up East Street and Market Street and down West Street. I’ve already declared my interest, but on top of this these streets are not through routes and two are predominantly residential. They are simply not suitable to take the traffic currently handled by the High Street. But then if you don’t live there why would you care if it achieved the objective you desired!

  11. Some very viable solutions here apart from the ridiculous comments around parking/social housing on Gibbets Marsh and turning the middle salts into a car park. These areas are used by families, dog walkers, children etc and Gibbets Marsh is also the gateway to the cycle route and is not a suitable site for housing.
    A friend of mine had a fantastic solution the other day – park and ride from East Guldeford. This would alleviate traffic congestion and parking in the town.

  12. Great idea in principle to purchase the derelict Lower School site for a car park. BUT the big problem is access. Previous ideas – housing and supermarket – have foundered partly for that reason, and a car park by definition would be at least as much of a traffic problem with vehicles coming in and out even more often. It’s dangerously near the level crossing which every hour sees vehicles stopped at the lights, and right opposite the fire station entrance. Even demolishing the Queen Adelaide wouldn’t solve this. I can’t see ESCC Highways agreeing to the idea. But to be constructive, I’m in favour of using the Middle (Bonfire) Salts as a FREE, SEASONAL car park. There’s already a wide gate in from New Road, the site’s flat with no trees except around the edge, there are toilets right there, and a lights-controlled crossing to the town centre. It would leave plenty of other recreational land adjacent for picnics, dogs, etc. (Cricket Salts, etc.). Outside the summer season the land could revert to its present use. This would help enormously. I fully understand some people’s aesthetic concerns (and like Phil I love that Joni Mitchell song!) but, as a long-term resident of Rye, I believe that the practical advantages would far outweigh them.

  13. The oft-repeated suggestion of pedestrianising the High Street between Adams & Bennetts (& sending traffic via East Street & Lion St) would create its own problems.
    The stretch of Market Street outside the Town Hall is frequently used for events – every weekend, weddings disgorge from the Town Hall and have their confetti throwing (and my Cry) in the street; the Jazz Festival closes Market Street for most of the August Bank Holiday weekend; Civic Processions line up outside the Town Hall for Mayor-making, Remembrance Sunday and St George’s Day; and events such as Sussex Day also temporarily close the street. These events could not go ahead if the Market Street was subject to High Street levels of traffic.
    Additionally, the world-famous, tourist-brochure view of Lion Street, looking up towards the Town Hall & Church would be spoiled if there was a continual stream of traffic coming down it.
    Although pedestrianising the High Street sounds a wonderful idea, I can’t see any way of doing so which not have a negative impact on other parts of The Citadel. High Streets are expected to be busy; it would be a terrible shame to push that volume of traffic into the more historic/picturesque streets of the town.

  14. May be Rye should take a look at how the town of Hythe, or even Canterbury have managed to pedestrianise their high Streets. It seems to work okay in those places. In fact it makes it a much nicer place to visit and spend money in.
    I would even propose that the whole of the high street be closed off from the land gate to the top of Market road . East street to lions Street will also become a nicer place to visit.
    Obviously there will need to be access for deliveries and maybe a town bus service, ferrying passengers to and from the car parks.
    As for the parking of those cars that would be displaced as a result the Lower School site would be a an ideal solution.
    After all, that site is hardly a natural undeveloped pasture land.
    With a bit of sympathetic landscaping and tree planting the site can only be improved and the land owners would also have a nice little earner in the long run.
    Access to the site could be entry from Ferry road and exit from The Grove onto Rope Walk.
    I have no doubt there will be a string of objections and lack of investment that will make the whole idea a complete pipe dream.
    When you consider that Rye has the highest Council tax in Rother ( East Sussex?) don’t we deserve a break.

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