Oyez, oyez . . . time to speak up

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This year’s Town Meeting is at Rye Community Centre on Conduit Hill from 6:30 pm on Wednesday March 4. My last visit there was to hiss and boo the villains in the Christmas pantomime – and you may feel the urge to do the same again. However you will have a better opportunity to express yourself in May as it is election year and you will be electing Town and District Councillors as well as your Member of Parliament.

Judging from Rye News’ reports, “the villains” you wish to hiss and boo may include most of Rother’s councillors who, allegedly, “take, take, take” from Rye and “spend, spend, spend” on Bexhill. However in the case of the Town Council the position is more complex, as most of Rye’s assets and powers went to Rother in the 70s – and aren’t they looking after the Landgate well, you may ask.

Some power may be clawed back if Rye has a Neighbourhood Plan and hopefully the Town Meeting will hear a lot about this as it will give Rye more control over its own affairs – though, as the Plan’s Steering Group Vice-Chair Anthony Kimber told the Planning Committee, there are those “who may well like to lose it in the long grass”.

Having a Plan which all can agree on will be difficult (and plans can sound distinctly boring), but some decisions may be forced on us if, for example, the Landgate (after so much neglect) were found to be a dangerous structure and a threat to traffic.

Planning is important therefore, as is control over it, and Rother’s backlog of planning applications makes me wonder whether control and/or enforcement is slipping ? Where I live in Valley Park, the latest new buildings have raced ahead, but seem very crowded together and are (unlike the rest of the site) dominated by a very, very large block of flats as housing density increases.

However there is a high proportion of social housing (and less car ownership) in Valley Park, no buses and the pedestrian access from the Old Brickyard is still deep in mud, flooded and unlit for the children, prams and elderly who have to find a way through using temporary measures such as a teenager’s billiard table laid flat over the largest “pond”. Community facilities are non-existent and those in nearby Tilling Green appear to be shrinking as the apparently secretive development of the former school site continues.

The possibility of faster through-trains to London has raised both hopes and fears as some feel Rye would risk becoming a commuter town. Perhaps this is unlikely given season ticket prices and parking charges. However more commuters might affect the “age balance” in the town and possibly impact wages too. At present Rye’s population seems rather older than average and few local jobs seem to be well paid – perhaps neither situation is healthy for the town.

On the other hand there are many activities in the town, including the new Kino, and many people “being active” – though more are always needed. So there should be lots to talk about at the Town Meeting – and (don’t forget) it is election year.