Rye citadel traffic congestion


I suppose, like many residents, I was both disappointed but not really surprised to read that Rye Town Council had yet again baulked at supporting the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement as a solution for the chaotic parking situation in the town. Needless to say, expecting Rother District Council to address the problem would be whistling in the wind.

Can I therefore float an alternative idea for consideration through your column?

In October 2002 Durham County Council implemented a congestion charge for traffic entering the historic Durham City peninsular, an area similar in many ways to Rye’s citadel. Their aim was to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and improve air quality in the peninsula. They also wanted to encourage out-of-hours use of the area as well as creating safer and more attractive streets for everyone. The charge they made is £2 per vehicle entering the peninsular between the hours of 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday, with some exemptions including for local residents. It is now policed using an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera at the one entrance to the peninsular.

It was specifically designed to protect the historic centre of the city, which includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, from large numbers of tourists in cars by encouraging them to park elsewhere and walk. It is credited with reducing traffic on the road by a staggering 85%, indicating how little real benefit was gained from most motorists driving on the road (and with vehicle numbers cut to less than 600 per day) and at the same time increasing pedestrian traffic by 10%. The £2 charge generated enough income to subsidise an enhanced cathedral bus service and supported a Shopmobility scheme.

Further details of the scheme can be found on the websites of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and Durham County Council.

I can’t help thinking that the implementation of a similar scheme in the Rye citadel would have a number of benefits without the problems that a full pedestrianisation would bring. An ANPR camera could be installed at the Landgate and, if Mermaid Street were to be made one way down to the Strand, that would be the only entrance to the citadel. The Rye Neighbourhood Plan (at clause 51.40) offers a vision for “Improvements to certain Inner Locations” which includes the creation of a “Shared Space” in the High Street, but notes that “the courage to explore and refine new solutions” is required. The implementation of congestion charging could be such a new solution and a first step toward creating the Shared Space as well as providing the other benefits listed above.

However, I note that to complete the project in Durham there was “a strong political will to resolve the growing problem, together with support from the main commercial organisations”. I rather guess that that alone means that there is little chance of such an innovative scheme being adopted in Rye.

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  1. Interesting piece. This is just the sort of initiative which could help to deter the seemingly icreasing numbers of vehicles attempting to navigate the “Citadel”. The result is issues of conservation (vibration damage to medieval dwellings with insubstantial foundations) , environmental damage and of course risks to pedestrians and reaidets. However, as the author indicates, although recording initiatives, drawing on successful schemes elsewhere is valuable, effecting change is dependent on political will to take what can be viwed as unpopular action.

    For the Rye Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group

  2. This is an interesting idea which should be considered by RTC’s Highways Forum. However, making Mermaid Street one way will seriously inconvenience some residents; as it is the only other entrance to the Citadel area perhaps an AVR camera could also be erected there.

    Most of the parking problems are anyway caused by residents who park where they should not, by delivery vehicles which deliver during the “forbidden hours” and by tradesmen’s vehicles which park up outside properties they are renovationg but do not need to be there. It’s acceptable for this latter group if they have essential equipment on board but it seems quite unreasonable for 5 or 6 vehicles to be effectively abandoned and not accessed for hours at a time. RTC would do us all a great favour, at minimal cost and with no legal changes, if it sent a circular letter to all residents and tradesfolk politely reminding them that large parts of the citadel are no parking except for pick-up and drop-off, that parking on pavements in a restricted area is illegal, and asking them all, both for themselves and anyone they are employing, to respect the rules. Thereafter those who persistently offend should be named and shamed.

  3. Andrew Bamji forgets one category of people who regularly park in the citadel and beyond well in excess of allowed hours – the shop owners. I know of many who do this, without a care in the world, and seemingly totally oblivious to the connection between ability to park and likelihood of people using their shops. I mostly can’t be bothered now – either go to Tenterden or, increasingly, on-line. Doubtless if there was a congestion charge scheme they would be exempt, so nothing would change.

    There really is no need to have fancy cameras and such. Just a traffic warden with a hard-line attitude.

  4. A congestion charge is a solution worth considering. However, it could be seen as unfair on local residents wishing to park only briefly to shop in the Citadel. The obvious long term solution is surely the re-introduction of a parking warden. It is only since the previous parking warden was not replaced that the chaos has developed. Drivers are now regularly parking on double yellow lines, resulting in considerable hazards to road safety and to pedestrians. The High Street is only one example. Another is the stretch of road opposite the former post office and Rye DIY. Vehicles parked there are a serious obstacle at this point, where vehicles coming from Cinque Ports Street are now at risk of collision with vehicles coming round the corner from the right, near the zebra crossing. Parking regulations which are not enforced, and therefore blatantly ignored, bring those very regulations into contempt. The rule of law is essential to an ordered society. Without it, it is every man for himself, as Rye streets often regrettably demonstrate. Obviously our police have to prioritise on more serious crime, but in the absence of a parking warden in Rye is there no hope of police enforcement?


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