At Rye News we are always interested to hear what people think and to read the comments – even if sometimes we are unable to publish them – on our various articles.
Last week, the story that attracted most interest was the intention of Rother District Council (RDC) not to renew the lease on land at Cyprus Place currently occupied by Rye Hire, but to see it redeveloped for housing.
There was a large majority in the comments section against this proposal and for the retention of the Rye Hire business in its present location. A comment from Rye Hire also indicated that this would be their preferred option, too.
Rye Town Council, too, agreed at their last meeting to write to RDC expressing their view that the existing business should be allowed to remain.
For many years there has been a strong feeling, often expressed by our readers, that RDC pays little regard to the views of the residents of Rye and the nearby villages and has little interest in Rye itself, except as a producer of funds for Rother’s coffers.
Just before publication, on Thursday September 24, we received a statement from RDC Liberal Democrat councillor for Rye, Howard Norton. The statement is as follows:
“I would like to correct the widely-held view in the town that Rye Hire is the victim of a remote and ruthless Rother District Council. Although the owner of the business is obviously upset and anxious about the future, in conversation with him I don’t get the impression that he feels that he has been badly treated. This is certainly not a summary eviction. His lease, which expires in October, has been extended until July 2021 and made flexible so that he can leave at any time before that.
“There is also the possibility of a further extension beyond July 2021 depending upon the timing of the redevelopment of the site. RDC have put the owner in touch with East Sussex Re-Locate who have been active in helping him explore alternative premises and I understand that the process is now looking hopeful.
“The move will be expensive but, although the owner is not legally entitled to resettlement grants, there are indications that in the circumstances RDC will not be ungenerous. RDC, like all councils, is under enormous pressure from the government to build ever more houses although not twenty on this site as rumour has it. In the present climate the development of the site, long owned by Rother, for housing was sad but inevitable. I believe it is being handled in a sympathetic and responsible manner.”
There is no mention here of the objection from Rye Town Council, nor of the much used service that business supplies from a very accessible location near the town centre. Instead we get a piece of Rother propaganda and the usual excuses concerning the pressure RDC is under to find land for additional housing. No mention of the Lower School, Tilling Green school and Fred Gardham sites, all of which have been available for many years. It is sad that a councillor on whom we should be able to rely to represent the interests of Rye is apparently more concerned with defending the actions of RDC.
Councillor Norton accuses Rye of regarding RDC as “remote and ruthless”. I am not sure about ruthless, but remote they certainly are. Of the 38 district councillors, 18 – nearly half the total – represent Bexhill, while a mere two represent Rye and two more from Playden (officially, Eastern Rother). It should surprise no one, therefore, that the voice and interests of Rye rarely prevail in the council chamber at Bexhill. And when one of those two Rye councillors clearly feels his loyalty is to Rother, rather than to the electors who put him there, any influence this town has, is diminished still further.
The lack of understanding about Rye in Bexhill is reinforced by one of the comments on last week’s article and which came from someone who, although not a Bexhill councillor, has previously been in favour of a local town council for Bexhill. Her comment was:
“I know you won’t like to hear this but, East Sussex as a whole is a small area. An ‘Us and Them’ approach helps no-one. We need to look at what is best for the region. For years Bexhill, population 45,000, has been under-represented and subsidising smaller towns (for instance Rye population 9,000, but including the other small towns in Rother) as they have been the major contributor to council tax – and also the place where new homes were provided – without proper community facilities. We all need to shoulder the various burdens.”
This, from past actions from Bexhill, would seem to be a generally-held view in that part of the world. It is, however, so far from the truth that it is almost difficult to know where to begin with corrections.
Rye has always punched well above it’s weight when bringing strength to the economy of East Sussex in general and Rother district in particular. We entertain visitors and tourists in their hundreds of thousands every year and per head of population, probably contribute more to the bank accounts of both RDC and East Sussex County Council than any other area.
To suggest, as this comment did, that we are an encumbrance to Bexhill is little short of an insult. The truth is precisely the opposite. Rye sees little in return for the substantial amount in rates, parking fees and other payments including income from land sales, that go to Rother. In fact when I raised this very point with the then chairman of RDC in an interview some years ago, he admitted that the money went to where most of it was required, and that was in Bexhill.
One small example of this can be shown by their attitude to one of our main historical landmarks, the Landgate. Rother had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the bare minimum of work on this to prevent it falling into complete disrepair, and yet were happy to spend millions on the white elephant that is the piece of 1920s kitsch otherwise known as the De La Warr Pavilion. If they are so desperate for housing, why not convert that into residential?
So, other than lying down in front of the bulldozers, we probably do not have much chance to defend the current use of the Cyprus Place land, but it does beg the question, what does Rother do for us? Does Rye benefit in any way from the current arrangement, or was the link-up in 1973 nothing but a ghastly mistake which we are all now paying for?
We have recently seen Brexit – maybe the time is coming for Ryexit from Rother.
Image Credits: Rye News library .