With the demise of the High Street banks it seems that wherever you go at the moment there is a glut of empty premises in central locations – not a great look for any town – victims of this new age of advancing technology.
Many of the old banks seem unsuitable for retail use. Those which offer the potential for change often end up as coffee shops or pubs and are swallowed up into the corporate domain, others remain empty and unsightly, some attract planning applications for something different.
One of Rye’s recent casualties is the Nat West Bank on the High Street, joining the ranks of Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays which have all followed suit in recent times. Looking at the planning application (RR/2019/2043/L) for the former Nat West Bank at 85 High Street it is interesting to note that the building was once known as Langford House, a substantial family home with five bedrooms.
When Nat West acquired it in the 1930s, the bank put forward an application for change of use from an end-terrace residential dwelling to a bank, which was approved by the then local authority. When the bank opened in 1939 and the conversion took place, a banking hall was added together with safes and strong room, but thankfully, throughout the bank’s 78-year tenure many of the characteristic features were left unchanged other than taking out some of the original staircase.
The new owners have now submitted a planning application to reinstate the building to what was formally a substantial residential dwelling with very few proposed changes to the original plans (other than changes required to satisfy current building control) and it will be interesting to see how the application is determined.
On a separate application, planning consent has recently been approved (RR/2017/2217/P) for the redundant Victorian buildings at 17-19 Tower Street, to the rear of The Fish Café (see photographs) which now have permission for change of use, six units from commercial to residential and change of use of the former stable block to offices and/or shops, to be converted at some point in the future.
The application seemingly met with very little opposition and whatever your viewpoint is on the approval, the vacant and unsightly buildings will soon have a new lease of life rather than falling into a state of dereliction like others locally.
A question mark still hangs over the future of a number of vacant sites and buildings in and around the town, understandably these things take time to resolve but until they are, they remain a lasting first impression for visitors to Rye.
Image Credits: Nick Forman .