Would less traffic increase business?

New tarmac dug up but no traffic about

Last week, after the repairs had been carried out to the High Street and some of the roads in central Rye, there was a mixed reaction from locals with some applauding the much needed improvements whilst others questioning why the town should begin to look like any other.

Whilst the resurfacing was being carried out, the inevitable road closures and diversions had to be put in place which meant parts of the town became temporarily pedestrianised.

Interestingly, Rye News received two communications this week from readers who feel now is the time to consider carefully what the implications of a traffic-free High Street might bring. One reader made the point about the newly-laid tarmac being dug up a week later and sent in a photograph to accompany the following quote:  “After waiting years for the High Street and The Mint to be resurfaced, after only a week the first hole has appeared. A gas leak prompted the work, although activity seems to have stopped for the weekend. On the plus side, the Mint is now a pedestrian zone.”

New tarmac is dug up for essential gas repairs.

Another local sent in the following:

Can I have My High Street Back Please?

“Having lived in the Rye area for some years, I frequently walk along the High Street and wonder why we allow this beautiful gem to be cluttered with parked cars. In busy periods, especially at holiday times and weekends, the crowds and the parked cars result in an unseemly obstacle course, made worse by moving vehicles threading their way through the pedestrians. And the absurdity is that most of the moving cars are just looking for somewhere to park! And the ever-increasing number of electric vehicles means that you can’t hear them coming.

“I have spoken with many people and there seems to be general agreement that the traffic/parking situation does little to make visiting the High Street enjoyable. Who wants to visit a busy car park, even if it does have shops?

“Traditionally, when pedestrianisation of part of a town centre is raised, there will be a barrage of objections. This is understandable if the change is made with little thought for residents who need access and parking, or shops that need access for good delivery. I recall living in one town with a similar issue, and the main concern was from the shopkeepers who predicted a fall in custom – but visiting became more pleasant and business went up!

“Why now? Well, the re-opening of the George and the resurfacing of the road have really improved the appearance of our High Street – so why not take this opportunity to further enhance the town?

“So, come on Rye Council, I challenge you to think of a plan that would meet the residents’ and shops’ needs, and provide a High Street environment that would encourage visitors to return to our town. The idea could be trialled for one or two busy weekends before we make any final decisions. It’s not rocket science.”

Visitors to Rye are the lifeblood of the town and Rye, despite all of its unique and wonderful attractions, depends on tourists to keep it alive so is it now time for a rethink on the possible pedestrianisation of parts of the town? Is it time just for reaction or is now the time for a meaningful debate and action? What do you think?

Image Credits: Nick Forman .


  1. Now is the time to make our High Street a pedestrian zone. It will enhance the town, encouraging more people to visit and give rise to other opportunities in the town, such as street markets, street food, and other such attractions. The pavements are too narrow when the town is busy, forcing many people into the road anyway. I’ve seen elderly people have to walk in the road and then try and get out the way when a vehicle approaches. I’m sure the issues about shops receiving deliveries could be addressed. I’m not an anti-car person, I do drive, but what a delight it would be to be able to wander care free through the high street, without having to dodge a car. At least conduct a public consultation perhaps?

  2. Seems like the perfect time to consider an occasional temporary ban on cars not only from being allowed to park in the High Street but also to drive down it. It must be carefully thought through with prompt access for emergency vehicles (hopefully no issue for ambulances, paramedics or fire engines). Delivery vehicles will need to be given limited access – perhaps weekdays between 8am and 10am? They are unlikely to be delivering at weekends (except perhaps for alcohol to pubs?). Try it for a couple of weeks – or weekends and then the shops can see if it truly makes a negative difference to customer footfall…

  3. It’s visitors try to negotiate the narrow roads in their enormous ‘Chelsea tractors’ that get me. Obviously too sniffy to use one of the numerous car parks we have! I think a pedestrianised High Street would benefit both businesses and visitors alike. Only problem I can see would be with those residents who live in the Citadel and currently have a right to drive and park in there. So I can’t see how it can be easily policed in order to stop visitors from bringing their cars in.

  4. Whilst I appreciate your comment, Mark, people living in the High Street (and there are many of us) would be detrimentally affected. Perhaps we could have a pedestrian zone but residents are still allowed to drive to their properties?

    • Totally agree with you Carole, I’m not suggesting for one minute that all vehicles are permanently banned. If residents have access to garages/driveways then they should be permitted. General traffic, shoppers should not. Of course, other exceptions may apply, Blue Badge holders perhaps. Its an issue that needs to be discussed and with careful planning, it could work and be very beneficial. Of course, you’ll never please everyone, but we can try.

  5. Over the years I have often felt that the High Street would benefit from becoming car-free. I recent months, however I have had to avoid it all together as it became increasing difficult to stagger up Market Hill. Now, at last, I have a Blue Badge and can frequent the High Street regularly and spend money there, especially as there seems always to be space to park since parking charges were introduced.
    Maybe, I’m just being selfish so I leave it to others to decide.

  6. If we ban traffic on the High Street, we will vastly increase the amount of two-way traffic using Mermaid Street, West Street and Church Square, which are far less suitable for cars than the High Street.

    I can see the appeal of making the High Street no-parking (or loading only) – but where would the displaced parked cars go? Without concreting over the Town Salts, I can’t think of any area within walking distance of the Citadel which could become a new car park.

  7. How many times have I said,pedestrianise the high street from Adams until the junction with lion Street, people can still drive to their homes in the Citadel, why are the authorities sitting on the fence over this, when it’s plain common sence to make the high street more pedestriane friendly for all.

  8. Can we flip this debate around and hear from the people who need to park on the high street for shopping? Our high street does not have supermarkets or convenience stores a butchers or fishmongers or grocers. And I very much doubt anyone wakes-up and thinks “I must pop down to Rye High Street and buy a painting.” Our high street shops are primarily focussed on selling gifts for visitors, many of whom wont even be here with a car. The George Hotel probably has the highest number of visitors who will stay overnight or those that go to eat and drink there, but they don’t provide on street parking. So, apart from some disabled parking and loading bays and couriers, who exactly needs to park on the high street? Please speak up.

    • Chip shop in the evening is probably my most regular visit nowadays.
      Before losing both parents I would make frequent trips to collect from Day Lewis or Boots as well as dropping off and collecting from the dentists surgery.
      It used to be the banks that I visited for business purposes, long gone.
      Personally I don’t think that stopping access is a good idea.

  9. Falmouth have an interesting middle ground solution. They have lowering bollards that come down every 20 mins or so to allow deliveries and resident and trader access. This has the effect of allowing business to continue but as a tourist you quickly get used to the ebb and flow. Having 20 mins of strolling without vehicles is lovely but no one is adversely affected. Life is about compromise.

  10. Mark, this idea is often proposed but I collect and return boxes of books at the library and deliver to sheltered housing for older people. The only way I can do this is to drive along the High Street and down Market Road to the back of the library. If nobody is parking across the alleyway of course. The library doesn’t open till 10 so a High Street closure after this time would mean the end of this voluntary service.

    • Based on your wording your parking is dependant on an alleyway at the back of the library not being blocked. May I ask why you cannot use a loading bay on the High St which allows a 20 minute window to drop off and collect the books … and also put a sign in your window stating what you’re doing and where you are? I don’t think anyone is proposing a blanket ban on all vehicles using the high street. Obviously there needs to be bays for deliveries to the residents and shops, hotels and the Nationwide, etc.

  11. Agree with the first reader who started the debate. Carole will have to get used to walking further; if every Citadel resident had car access that would be another 200+ cars a day in and out.
    The Falmouth idea sounds good. They have similar rising bollards in Avignon which essential users have a code for.

  12. I think now is also the time to look at the actions of Whitby and Cornwall. The surrounding areas and outskirts of Rye are subject to 100s of new houses being planned and built yet the majority of Rye is second homes (350+ air B&Bs in the cente of Rye) . It is destroying the essence of community, and distorting the High Street into a tourist “museum” . People who live in and around Rye unable to shop for the necessities because the only options are the many many coffee shops, art shops or expensive boutique shops all aiming at the affluent tourist trade.

  13. One must agree with Simon South, Rye is no longer a town for locals,everything is geared up for Outsiders as house prices push out the locals, the only saviour I can see for our young is what Rother district council have been doing in Northiam, Broad Oak and Icklesham, building social housing for locals only,and this is the way forward to help keep communities together for the future.Shame on East Sussex County Council, for reneging on the Tilling Green school site, denying young Ryers a place to live,in the town they were born in.

  14. I’m not so sure that pedestrianising the high street would be such a great idea. Whilst I think most of us in the town would love to be able to walk up and down our highstreet without having to keep an eye out for a tourist in a fast car coming at well above the speed limit, i think that pedestrianising the highstreet would be a step in the wrong direction, primarily for one big point: What about the people who live in The Citadel? People in The Citadel have cars and shopping to bring home too, by pedestrianising the highstreet there would only be Mermaid Street able to give the people of the citadel automobile access to the outside world. Thus by pedestrianising the highstreet and making that a better looking place, we would be condemning Mermaid Street to a life of congestion.

  15. Henry White those are valid points, which have been clearly addressed in some of the previous posts with many solutions available including partial closures, rising bollards etc.

  16. How would boards and partial closures help those who live and work in Rye above the high street.
    Not even necessary to have the cost of re designing the high street for the benefit that some think it would come about.
    Vehicles coming to the town hall , how do they get to exit Rye town..if not into high street via Lion street
    Kino deliveries..disabled visiting Kino.
    Funerals, weddings at church ..bell ringers ..AA meetings ….list is endless of legitimate reasons to use a vehicle in Rye..
    Eventually more people may have electric vehicles so quieter and less pollution along the high street and the Mint
    In the near future …may be fewer vehicles with the cost of petrol and diesel at the moment..and fewer people visiting Rye….Let’s hope Rye will be alright though.

  17. So as usual when this topic airs I’d like to say, yet again, that virtually all High Street businesses have no rear delivery access. It is no good suggesting that a logistics company from, say, Manchester with many deliveries to make across the South-East should arrive in Rye at a time that is convenient for the locals or barriers that rise and fall at pre-determined intervals. It’s just not going to happen. So no matter how much anyone craves the closure of the High Street (full or part time) it will not work for business unless this problem is solved (and currently it’s impossible to see a solution).PS The High Street is not a museum, in fact it’s quite diverse when you think about it. The simple reality is that Rye is tourist town and tourism is the mainstay of the local economy. This benefits everyone. PPS I’d also be interested to know what an “outsider” is.


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