RDC councillors, friend or foe?


Now that the dust has started to settle on the Camber Fields farrago, perhaps it is time to take a very brief look at who does (or does not do) what in the town.

We have an elected town council of 16 councillors who, in very general terms, are responsible for the day-to-day working of the town’s administration, subject, in some instances (such as planning) to the approval, or otherwise, of Rother District Council (RDC) who, under the 1973 local government act, have overall responsibility for the running of their district, which consists of Bexhill, as the major town, two small towns, Rye and Battle and numerous villages.

At the last count, there appeared to be 37 district councillors, all elected, of which virtually half (18) represented various areas of Bexhill. The rest were divided between Rye, Battle and the villages.

Here in Rye we have two district councillors, Lord Ampthill and Gennette Stevens and their job is to look after the interests of Rye and to ensure that the Town’s views and interests are properly represented in all decisions taken by RDC as a whole.

And herein lies the problem: Gennette Stevens may, or may not exist, she may live in or near Rye or, for all this writer knows,  she may live in the Bahamas. She appears to be mute and invisible, we never hear of her or from her, so what does she do? If anyone knows, please tell Rye News and if you are reading this, Gennette, you are more than welcome to use these pages to tell us about your work at RDC and how you have been looking after the interests of Rye.

Our other councillor, Lord Ampthill is in the RDC Cabinet and his responsibility there is for finance, resources and value for money. He now lives in Rye but has previously been a councillor for East Grinstead and was a cabinet member on Mid Sussex District Council where he was responsible for community development. He could perhaps be described as a professional local politician and is undoubtedly very active at Rother – but whose interests is he serving?

There have been two obvious occasions recently when one is given cause to wonder: The first is traffic – parking has been a problem for a long time, particularly in the town centre and citadel area where indiscriminate parking can, and frequently does, cause problems. The logical thing would be to have a district-wide policy which would enable either the police or wardens to have control of this, and there are central government policies which may eventually force this to happen. However, Bexhill does not want it, for its own reasons, and Councillor Ampthill it would seem, has gone along with this, only giving the appearance of starting to change his mind when, at the public meeting with the police and PCC a month or two ago, he was called upon to explain his position and, belatedly realising the strength of opinion in the room, gave a masterclass in political back pedalling. Whether he has pursued this at Bexhill, however, is anyone’s guess.

The second occasion is, of course, Camber fields. One can reasonably assume that this would have come within his portfolio and therefore, one must ask, how is it in the interests of Rye to sell off 70 or so acres of grazing land (an area almost as big as the existing town, itself) for development. Fortunately, that nightmare is not going to happen as it was bought by the current tenant, a local farmer who, luckily, was in the position of being able to raise over £150,000 at just a few days notice.

It has to be said that Rye Town Council don’t come out of this too well either. They were advised many months ago that Rother were considering this sale and although they expressed interest in buying it back, when Rother responded only with silence, they did nothing further until news of the sale at auction was dumped on them at short notice. They should have been proactive and followed the initial contact up – we all know that politicians are most dangerous when they are silent, they’re almost certainly hatching some scheme that their constituents may not like. RTC should have known this. The only question left is what will happen to the £150,000? Will it be spent prettying up the Bexhill seafront or will our councillors finally grasp the nettle and ensure that it is spent in, and for the interests of Rye.

So we have two district councillors, but are they working for Rye or Bexhill? Should they now, as JFK might have put it, “ask not what Rye can do for you, but what you can do for Rye”. If neither of them are prepared to do this then another quote comes to mind, this time from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once” and please let us have someone who will look after the interests of our town rather better.

A few paragraphs ago I suggested that Gennette Stevens might like to respond and put her own point of view and I now extend the same offer to you, Lord Ampthill. Come and write for us, let us know what you are doing and what is going on in Bexhill. There are a lot of questions still to be answered so be silent no longer, talk to us and show us you really do care.



  1. Oh how I have enjoyed reading this, someone who is prepared publically to say as it is.
    Perhaps now our Rother District Councilors will knuckle down & represent us here in Rye.

  2. I really must agree with everything written in this post perhaps the new chairman of Rother district council, Mr Osborne, could update us what these two individuals have done for this town, after safety getting elected,under the blue flag, at the present time,I haven’t heard a good word said about these two individuals.

  3. If Rother District Council had decided to sell Camber Field (among, it must be said, other bits of land it wished to dispose of) then it had, and has an obligation to achieve the best price it can, and council members would probably be criminally irresponsible if they entered into any deal that undermined that principle. If Rye Town Council had been serious about wishing to buy it, then it should have sent someone to the auction. Quite what it would have done with a plot that has an old tip in it, and is in the major flood risk zone (not least with some of it under the high water mark) is anybody’s guess. That a local purchaser has paid a fair price for it is not a bad outcome.

  4. Rother Council are duty bound to get the best price for the tax payer, but did they really do this with the disposal of the Camber Fields?

    It was taken to Auction at unbelievably short notice, without been widely advertised (if it was advertised at all), by a non local firm !

    Similar land that borders the Camber field, was sold the previous year for well over twice the price per acre and had over 20 tenders for it.

    Even more bizarrely , the Environmental Agency were discussing compulsory purchasing the Camber Fields as part of their planned sea defence for Rye, so why did Rother off load an asset so hastily ?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here