We have been interested for some time in promoting the idea of a pedestrianised zone in the Citadel area of Rye. Living in the Citadel is no longer as attractive as it once was. The pollution levels from traffic are high, the noise from the traffic is high, visitors and residents have to be continuously on their guard to avoid the traffic and there are some dangerous corners. The High Street, East Street and Lion Street take the brunt of the traffic but it is at its most unattractive in the High Street. It is no longer a pleasure to amble along our main shopping street at busy times and the camera angles for our visitors are clogged with cars, moving and parked.
Yet on our travels in Europe, be it in Germany or Italy or Spain, there are plenty of examples of towns which have recognised the intrinsic historic merit of a specific area by freeing it up from traffic and benefited from more numerous and happier visitors. In early March we were in Northern Italy, where we visited Trieste, Udine and Cividale del Friuli. Trieste is clearly the largest and the two others are successively smaller. All three had pedestrianised areas which were clearly not just there as a reflection of historic conservation policy but were also clearly geared to encouraging enterprise – and were doing so.
In all three places it had been necessary to come up with parking solutions and these differed from place to place. We also picked up that zoning was not viewed in isolation but was part of a wider programme which focused on the preservation of the historic fabric, imaginative use of historic buildings that had lost their original purpose, and support for business enterprises.
While this would be a major step for Rye and entail much work for those on our own council and that of Rother and East Sussex, it seems to us that it is an idea that we as a town would be rash not to consider at this juncture.
Rye has so much going for it, from the festivals which attract visitors from across the UK, to the market which is a hub for the local area. It is that intangible feel that Rye has which for us comes from the combination of history and culture but without the sense of a museum, but rather that of a vibrant working place, which we need to preserve. That means keeping the town somewhere that people enjoy working in, living in and visiting. We believe that a carefully structured pedestrianised zone which is part of a programme of support for local enterprise, could make a major contribution to securing such a future for Rye.
Edward & Mandy Mayer