What should we do with our cars?

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Parking clogging up Rye's High Street may be better controlled in future - but not for a while yet

Readers of these columns will note that almost every week for the past few months we have carried an article or comments on parking and recently these have mainly been related to the problems at Camber.

The forest of signs and parking meter out of order

A new system  was introduced there this year, and run by an independent operator, which enabled users to enter the car park and then pay, rather than queuing at the gate to pay on entry. The intention was a good one – to remove, or at least reduce, the traffic congestion in the village at peak times in the summer, and to make parking, itself, simpler, quicker and hassle free.
Sadly it seems that this is a classic example of the old adage about the road to hell being paved with good intentions: the congestion on warm summer weekends is still apparent and cars still park (illegally) on verges and footpaths either because the car park is full or to avoid paying to park. And what of those who do use the car park and pay the fee? There are many instances (and those reported to us are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg) where visitors are being issued with penalty notices of £100 despite buying a ticket and not overstaying their time. 
As a result Camber is starting to get a reputation for being a difficult, and potentially very expensive place to park and this, in turn, and as letters to Rye News demonstrate, is putting visitors off from returning. As our whole area benefits from a tourist-based economy, this is potentially serious and although Rother were, for once, trying to do the right thing, it is perhaps time to admit that the experiment, from the ugly signage to the modus operandi of the parking company needs to be examined and re-thought for next year.
New concert venue (and art gallery) at rock channel

Camber, of course, is not the only area of difficulty. In Rye, itself, parking has been a problem for some time. There is not only the problem of drivers totally ignoring all yellow lines and parking restriction signs (hopefully to be resolved in due course), but one of actually where to park. At this time of year, in particular, there is hardly a spot, legitimate or otherwise, to be had on the street and a walk round the town’s car parks will show them to be full. Even the largest in the market rarely has a spare space to be seen. The only exception is Gibbet Marsh which being not well signposted and, literally, the wrong side of the tracks, usually has spaces. This was brought home to one of Rye News’ regular correspondents the other day who, when attending a concert at the new venue at Rock Channel, found that, despite being a relatively small auditorium with limited seating, the car park, reserved for concert-goers was already full, and as his passenger was unable to walk far, and with no other parking available in the vicinity, he had to return home. This was not the concert organisers fault – they only had the space they had – but it goes to demonstrate the problem, simply a lack of space in a small town for an increasing number of vehicles.
The old warehouse and garage site opposite the quay

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), when introduced, will sort out the town centre mayhem, but will also put more pressure on existing car parks with the vehicles displaced from yellow lines requiring somewhere to stop. So what is the solution? Obviously additional car parks – but where? There are one or two small spaces dotted around the town that could cope with a few vehicles, but the biggest vacant area is, of course, the old lower school site off Ferry Road. One suggestion made a few years ago was that there should be a multi-story car park there (not that multi, probably ground plus one storey) which could be easily camouflaged by suitable planting. A footbridge over the railway would then provide quick and easy access to the town centre. It won’t happen, of course. The site will be filled with houses with, judging by past plans, almost certainly insufficient parking facilities, thus making the situation elsewhere, worse.
Another possible alternative is in Winchelsea Road opposite Strand Quay. There are two somewhat makeshift and scruffy car parks already there and two further sites comprising the old petrol station site and the Pine Warehouse. If these were all combined, smartened up and screened with planting, it would not only accomodate a large number of vehicles but be a much tidier entrance to the town than is currently the case. The snag, once again, is that part of the land is in the hands of developers (the same company that is building the five large terraced houses in Rock Channel – as yet unfinished and where building work gives the appearance of having stopped) who are understandably unlikely to release a prime development site for parking when it could return a healthy profit if used for housing.
So what is the answer? This writer certainly has no magic solution and it may in the end come down to Councils – both Town and District – being prepared to take brave decisions that could well prove unpopular for some.

Photo: Rye News library and John Minter

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , John Minter .

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve said before and I will say again, the best place to have another car park is the middle fair Salts, used twice a year for a funfair and Rye bonfire, this would be ideal to help sort out our parking problems, and accommodate a lot of cars coming into the town from the east.instead of them going around the town looking for spaces.

  2. A park and ride scheme using Gibbets Marsh. Only vehicles in the High Street being deliveries which should be completed by 10.30am
    Level pavements to road level and make access easier for all (including wheelchairs and buggies). Despite concerns of shopkeepers, it is FACT that sales increase under pedestrianisation. Cars would be limited to access only and would travel bearing in mind the ‘right of way’ of pedestrians.
    A pipe dream maybe – but what a delicious one!

  3. Two serious suggestions above which I thoughourly concour with.
    Rye town council should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the parking problems to run on and on. In towns of antiquity throughout the country pedestrianisation and and restricted parking has been applied for years.
    Wake up , look and see the bigger picture.

  4. The answer is clear, to go underground.
    Maybe for residents only, who live in Rye and surrounding areas. All year round, safe, clean, lit, underground parking, paid for annually. This would free up the other car parks for visitors. Or vice versa, visitors park underground, and residents only in the existing parking areas.

  5. Personally I would like to see The Strand car park around the antique shops pedestrianized (and other Rye areas). So removing 20 spaces or so – but increasing ability to offer a better visitor experience. Then have a larger site out of the town centre.
    Also, is there a ‘public interest’ test for the eyesore on Winchelsea road to take into council/other ownership re car parking? The developers would then also be compensated.

  6. I am in total agreement with the suggestion of Pam Buxton since moving to Rye, being a Rye Town Councillor for four years, quoting many towns where the restriction for cars between certain times work perfectly but sadly there are some people in Rye, often shop owners, who are not prepared to discuss the possibilities in details or look at the other places where it works.
    I was in North Germany recently including Heidelberg and all three towns we visited had ‘shared space’ and some pedestrians only. It worked beautifully, everyone was aware of each other, cars took care, drove slow and people managed it. And these were bigger towns than Rye. We are to start with just asking for a trial in the High Street. No parking but allow time for deliveries and the community bus. Heidi

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