A Better Way For Rye

A copy of the handbill issued by the Campaign for a Democratic Rye at the Public Meeting on November 14.

When the reorganisation of local government took place in 1974 Rye lost not only power over its own affairs but most of its land and property as well.

Rother District Council was formed and by the distribution of population it gave Bexhill a controlling interest over Rye, Battle and the villages in the Rother area.

If this were not bad enough the National Government decided at a later date to create a Regional Government, SEEDA and the Partnerships, non elected bodies who were given the task of distributing vast amounts of cash.

Properties and land that formerly belonged to Rye are now under threat of being exploited by property developers and lost to the town forever.

The Campaign for a Democratic Rye Steering Committee has spent the past year examining ways of bringing back proper democracy to Rye. It had a brief, given to it at its first public meeting, to find ways of returning the old Borough mantle and power to Rye Town Council. It offered an invitation to Rye Councillors to join in its deliberations but at that stage, the offer was not taken up.

The Steering Committee continued undaunted for it was sure it had the people of Rye behind it. Opinions of people from other parts of the country were sought, many of whose communities are experiencing the same problem as this town.

The Steering Committee have come to the conclusion that to regain Borough Status would require an act of Parliament so are advising another route to restore planning powers and control of our own destiny again.

There are already precedents for splitting districts but some have been administered by non elected bodies. This could not be allowed to happen here. Members of the Committee have visited several councils in Kent and have been in contact with individuals as far away as Dundee University. They have also been to Westminster and sought the views and ideas of officials in high places. Many already knew of Rye’s plight and reported other similar places who were having trouble with their respective District Councils.

The recommendation of the Committee is that we urge Rye Town Council to commence forthwith, a campaign to split Rother into three Districts administered by elected Councils in Bexhill, Battle and Rye.

Rye Town Council have touched on the possibility at a recent meeting. Councillor Paul Carey was enthusiastic but thought Rother would squash the plan.

The Steering Committee have been investigating possibilities of splitting the District in three parts. Bexhill and surrounding close area, Battle and and villages around and Rye & Winchelsea, (the two Ancient Towns) and the villages in an area east to the Kent border, north as far as Northiam and west to Broad Oak and Icklesham.

Rother District Council would still collect the Council Rates and their officials would share their expertise around the sections as required. The money from the Rother purse would be shared on a per capita basis for each area to administer. An elected council for each area would be responsible for planning, parks and gardens, car parks, rubbish collection etc. and reclaiming property that originally belonged to the towns and villages. Rye and District, along with Battle and District would benefit because the largest bite of the cherry would not then go to Bexhill.

Rother will not go easily down this path as it is controlled by a majority of Bexhill Councillors but public opinion, if it is voiced in enough numbers, to enough press and on a regular basis, will force the issue at the end of the day.

Let this not be just another meeting with a lot of argument and no action. Whether you are for or against any currently proposed local development, and whatever your political persuasion, talking without power in Rye Town Hall means nothing. We want to make our own decisions, not have others make them for us.

Keith Taylor
Keith Taylor

Tilling Green Estate was built by Rye Borough Council just after the War. It is an integral part of the town, indeed the majority of residents are born and bred Ryers. Whether you came here from Mason Road, Kings Avenue, Mermaid Street or Church Square you are all Ryers by birth or by choice, attending this meeting shows you care for this precious place. Every Ryer and indeed, all those from the villages that want a better way of life, are needed if Bexhill’s grip on the control and finances of this area are to be loosened.

Tonight we are voting for Rye and the freedom of the people of Rye & District to decide their own destiny. This town has led public opinion in the fight for democracy in the past. Let us throw off the yoke of Rother and run our own affairs as we did for 600 years before Bexhill (for that is who Rother are) cast a shadow over our Town Hall. If you wish to support this push for democracy please join the group, there is no charge.

Remember, no party politics, put Rye above all that. Our town has been adjudged to be one of the five towns in England most worthy of preservation. It is for us to protect that legacy for future generations to enjoy.

From “Rye’s Own “ December 2005

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