Rother District Council (RDC) has announced its intention to dispose of part of the Town Salts. By Public Notice dated May 24, it requires any objections to be lodged in writing by June 7, a mere 14 days.
The area in question is the former putting green. Describing the land as “held and maintained as public open space” the Council states that it is proposed to dispose of the said land to Rye Amenity Community Interest Company (CIC) turn the land into a “managed wildflower meadow” or “managed perennial meadow”.
Although RDC is without doubt the legal owner of the Salts, (acquired from Rye Town Council by virtue of the Local Government Act of 1972), equitable and beneficial ownership are held in trust for Rye. Democratic process requires that the citizens of Rye are properly consulted upon the use to which the Salts are put and the manner in which they are maintained.
The intended transferee may have the best intentions in the world and diligently promises to fulfil its responsibilities, but it cannot easily be obliged at law to do so. What covenants that may be required as part of the sale are not publicly disclosed in the Notice. Would it be reasonable for a shed to house mowing equipment to be erected on the site? And would planning consent be required or be deemed “permitted development”?
Moreover, the disposal of any one part of the Salts to a third party sets a precedent for a future sale and to the carving up of the whole entity into separately owned plots, perhaps for commercial gain. This should not be countenanced.
Another ground for objection is the probable denial of access to the area. Under the Council’s bylaws regulating the use of the Salts, it is unlawful for persons to enter upon any area cultivated for flowering plants. The closure of the area before the seeding of the wild flower would effectively reduce the area of public access.
The essence of the Salts and their enjoyment lies in their openness, physical and visual and their unfettered access by residents and visitors alike. The area forms a coherent whole. Any alteration to its character is a matter for the whole community. Rather than a shotgun disposal upon two week’s notice, this is a matter for public debate and discussion.
That Rye Town Council has apparently not been consulted is unbelievable! RDC is being urged to call a public meeting when this matter can be properly brought into the light and a proper consensus reached.
If you have objections to the proposal then they must be made in writing to Neo Georghiou, Estates Surveyor, Town Hall, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN39 3JX by Friday June 7 quoting the reference B032/Town Salts.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird.