Rye Town Council – where is it?

The Town Council in their finery

In 1973 Rye ceased to operate as its own independent area of governance and has had to be subject to the whims of Rother District Council (RDC), based in Bexhill – some 15 miles from our town – and the majority of whose officers and councillors have little or no knowledge of Rye and, in all probability, even less interest.

Our own town council was effectively stripped of its powers and, although still possessing a fine Town Hall, two maces, mayoral robes and chain together with robes and ceremonial hats for the councillors, some believe it is now little more than a talking shop.

But has it? And, if so, does this need to be the case?

Despite the efforts of our own Rother councillors, RDC regards Rye as a bit of a peripheral nuisance, but one that can be tolerated just as long as it keeps adding substantially to Rother’s coffers.

RDC sells off the Rye’s land for its own benefit and uses other revenues gathered from us for the benefit of Bexhill (as admitted by RDC Chairman Paul Osborne in an interview last year).

And, to add insult to injury, on a recent visit, by private bus, of a number of Rother officers and councillors, and despite knowing our traffic and parking problems, they left their vehicle illegally parked  with the result that it blocked in our own community bus. (The official excuse was that road works prevented them using the bus bay by the post office, but there were other options open to them, which they didn’t bother with such as the coach area of the station car park, or even Gibbet Marsh.)

Elsewhere this week, we have reported on continuing delays to the publication of the Landgate survey and frequently we have reported on traffic and parking problems. It is accepted that on neither of these issues can Rye Town Council, by itself, solve the problem.

However, has it been pressing RDC to release the Landgate report? Has it been putting pressure on our RDC representative councillors week after week to urge Rother to get on with it? No it hasn’t. Has it come up with an outline plan and research on funding agencies (subject to sight of the report) to demonstrate that they were keen to move the issue forward? Apparently not.

Rother wants a way out of this problem and the Landgate off their hands, that much is clear. It is up to our town council to come up with viable suggestions as to how this might be done. If it could do that, you can bet your bottom dollar that the surveyors’ report would suddenly be forthcoming. It was, admittedly, agreed at a summit of interested parties a year and a half ago, that Rother would take the lead in this, but its idea of taking the lead appears to be to sit on its hands for as long as possible.

Eventually they will move but if Rye does not have its own proposals ready (not necessarily in great detail – the survey report will probably be needed for that, but an outline and thought-through plan) , then the town may have a solution imposed on it that may suit Rother, but could be a long way from a good solution for Rye

Another perennial issue is traffic and parking. At the moment Rother, in conjunction with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is looking at how Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), i.e. paid-for on-street parking, and time limits enforced by wardens, might be made to work. This is not something that it is possible for Rye to go it alone on and, in any case, would also involve (ESCC), as only they have the power to approve and run this.

However CPE is not a solution in itself. The problem of traffic in general – as we have said many times before – needs to be looked at throughout the whole town with parking being one aspect of overall traffic management which might also include speed limits, restricted areas, parking permits for residents and businesses, and maybe even congestion charges as well as additional – and better signposted – car parks for visitors.

The Neighbourhood Plan (as the vice-chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, Anthony Kimber, has also said in Rye News), covers much of this ground and he agrees that a holistic approach is required.

The town council has so far said and done very little on any of this. It has said that it doesn’t like CPE and although a small scheme to investigate the possibility of CCTV cameras in Lion Street was being looked many months ago, so far as we are aware, no further progress has been made.

Whether the council, or the rest of us, want CPE or not, it is likely to be implemented in due course, and if we don’t make it plain how we want it applied to Rye and what other changes need to be made to enable efficient traffic management, we might just get something that does not suit the town at all.

And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Rye Town Council may not be an executive body these days, but it can still influence those higher up the governance ladder and it should be doing so. Right now, sadly, it is not.



Photo: Rye News Library


  1. Rye didn’t have its own ‘independent area of governance’ prior to 1973 because the County Council provided services not delivered by Rye Borough Council – and, of course, others were provided by Central Government.

    Rye Town Council (which has the status of a parish council) was created during the 1972-74 local government re-organisation. Other assets (aside from the Town Hall) that had been owned by the Borough Council were transferred to the Town Council but Members decided to transfer many of them back to Rother because it was felt that the cost of their upkeep could not reasonably be borne by Rye’s relatively small number of Council Tax payers.

    Because it has a qualified Clerk and doesn’t have any trouble filling Council seats the Town Council is able to exercise the General Power of Competence – which means that it can do anything in law that an individual can. Rye Town Council uses this power to own and let residential accommodation – otherwise there is no specific statue that permits this. Most recently the Council has used the General Power to buy a dwelling to let to a young Rye household at a reduced level of rent.

    As anyone who has attended a Council meeting will know they are not long drawn out affairs and discussions on agenda items tend to be focused with an emphasis on reaching decisions for the benefit of the wider parish. The result of this ‘talking’ means that Rye is one of a diminishing number of towns that still has a visitor information centre (in the form of the Town Council owned and managed Rye Heritage Centre) – which supports the local economy. Other services provided by the Council include: a skate park; public seats; weddings venue (Town Hall); the Town Hall Cottage; a Town Steward to improve the appearance of the town (extended this year with the appointment of a seasonal assistant) and giving grants to local community organisations and festivals (the latter on behalf of Rother). It is also currently acquiring public amenity space in Wish Ward and the freehold of the Ferry Road Nursery.

    In relation to the Landgate, the Town Council is aware that Rother is exploring securing most of the substantial funding that will be required via the Heritage Lottery Fund – which I am sure will have the full support of Rye Council Tax payers!

    The Town Council has not said that it doesn’t like Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) – only that it cannot consider supporting its introduction without knowing what type of scheme it would be and the implications.

    The Deputy Mayor has met with the Headcorn Parish Clerk regarding its CCTV scheme – and also the provider – and intends to draft a written report for the Council’s consideration.

    There is only so much that can be done to ‘influence’ larger authorities/agencies that have seen their Central Government funding cut substantially year on year.

  2. I am not a fan of John Minter’s sometimes inflammatory and inaccurate journalistic style but he does have a point. Despite all the good work and effort our Town Council do make ( as well detailed by Richard Farhall) I do often wonder if more lobbying of higher authorities could be done to communicate the needs and frustrations of the local community and bring pressure to bear for quicker, better outcomes. Perhaps Richard could provide some examples ?


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