Local intransigence frustrates

A busy High Street

Several councils have received “Emergency Active Travel Funding” from the Department for Transport (DfT). East Sussex County Council received around £535,000 and planned to spend some of the money partially closing Rye High Street between certain times, except for trade vehicles and the community bus and also planned more cycling schemes. This was rejected by some memebrs of the Rye Chamber of Commerce and so was a plan to get rid of the parking places (about 18 out of 900 in town) in the High Street but let traffic through.

The money was offered to alleviate the pressure on the High Street as the pavements are very narrow and Rye being a tourist town, there are a lot of visitors, which make walking in the town rather precarious at times, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic making people very nervous to mingle. Friends from Suffolk were appalled at the sight of all the people unable to distance, as many towns in their council area immediately used the money to close the high streets, Woodbridge being one of them.

There were 16 plans for different councils to use the DfT money but nine were shelved, of which Rye was obviously one. So, the money from East Sussex will be clawed back and yet again, as usual, Rye is bereft of any financial benefit. David Tutt, Liberal Democrat leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “The fact that so many schemes have now been withdrawn has caused reputational damage to the county council which shelved well researched options of using the money provided.”

I am also annoyed that there was not a wider consultation with the community. I certainly had no knowledge of any meetings or opportunities to have my say, the same with many others I talked to. I have heard locals complain that their trip to the chemist / health food shop / newspaper shop or the art galleries has been an unpleasant experience (me included) because of so many people trying to manoeuvre the narrow pavements and the road, dodging cars while trying to distance. I know the shops need the tourists and it’s great they come here, but a plan was put forward to make it a manageable experience. And where was the Rye Town Council in all this, I would like to know?

Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy .


  1. Rye Town Council was putting social distancing suggestions to the County Council, providing it with local information to help it assess how best to use the money it had obtained for this purpose – and ensuring that County consulted with local stakeholder organisations.

  2. Another missed opportunity. You would think that the offer of funding to trial a form of pedestrianisation would have been seized upon. There is not a lot of research but that which has been carried out supports the view that public realm improvements including pedestrianisation contributes to commercial success.


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