Heartbreak Hill

Three Hundred March – 1000 Sign

Three hundred people, including Rye M.P. Michael Foster, The Mayor of Rye Councillor Paul Carey, both our District Councillors, Granville Bantick and Sam Souster and almost every member of Rye Council, marched from the Postern Gate Surgery, via the appropriately named ‘Deadman’s Lane’ to the foot of Rye Hill, a hill that will no doubt have its name changed to ‘Heartbreak Hill’ if East Sussex County Council and PCT do not relent and allow the proposed move of the Postern Gate Surgery to be re-directed from the Memorial Care site to the old Ferry Road School location.

Those that could not march signed a petition, over 1000 names had been collected at the time of going to press.

This is another glaring case of people from outside Rye dictating the way things should be here and, as on previous occasions since Rye lost its corporate status, it has fallen on the people of this town to stand up and fight for what is, after all, sheer common sense. It is all very well for the fit and affluent patients to get to a surgery at the top of Heartbreak Hill but what about those without transport who normally walk to Postern Gate? And those from the villages who have already had one bus ride to get to Rye? Patients from Rye Harbour will have to plan for a days outing to get to see their doctor. Old folk will be seen struggling up the hill or losing their proud independence by having to ask for a lift. Some may be too proud and not make a visit resulting in tragedies. Ryers deserve better than this.

The Ferry Road site, which despite what County may say, is the rightful property of the people of Rye. It should be used for the good of this town not sold off to the highest bidder. It has been a rapidly deteriorating eyesore for the past eight years, since those fine buildings, that had been built by local craftsmen just prior to the war, were first deserted to vandals and finally subjected to an act of County Council folly when the classrooms were bulldozed to the ground. Excellent buildings that could have, by now, housed both the Surgery and Rye Library.

Before the march left from Postern Gate Michael Foster addressed his fellow marchers and told them that this strength of protest could not be ignored. “Keep up the pressure over the months to come and I feel sure we will get this problem resolved” he said. Mayor Paul Carey told those gathered “Rye has had to fight for justice many times before, but we are good fighters, we will win in the end!”. Councillor Peter Dyce, a leading light in the fight to keep the surgery in town and a long time champion of medical facilities for Rye, carried on in the same vein “We are fighting to stop our surgery being moved into the next parish”. Each address received a warm welcome after which the marchers set off behind the Town Crier and the Bonfire Drummers via Rope Walk and Deadman’s Lane to the foot of Rye Hill where all could see the difficulty it would be for senior citizens and persons with illness or disability to walk the half mile to the top.

Peter Jones Castigates Rye Councillors County Council Leader Peter Jones opened his report to the Rye Council Meeting of 5 May with an attack on a letter he received from Rye Council regarding the failure of County to clear the way for planning permission that would allow the Postern Gate Surgery to be re-located at the old Ferry Road School site. He claimed that the letter was “offensive” and “called into question his own personal integrity”.

Councillor Peter Dyce replied that one must accept criticism in politics but that Councillor Jones’ remark in the Rye Observer that Rye Council was indulging in “Grandstanding from the sidelines” was ‘under the belt’.

Councillor Jones referred to a letter he had sent Rye Council in which he claimed that the location and funding of the surgery is entirely a matter for the PCT and the practice and not East Sussex County Council. He and his professional colleagues had tried to work with PCT and the practice to open up the lower school site as an option but despite everyone’s best efforts, this floundered principally on the problems of access.

Councillor Jean Parks asked if it were possible to access the site from the Swimming Pool area in Love Lane. Councillor Jones said this might be possible but elaborated no further. Councillor Roger Breeds could not see how the original right of way for vehicles was not still in force but Councillor Jones replied it had to be renewed with a fresh development.

Councillor Jones went on to say that Tesco’s had an option to purchase the Queen Adelaide but he was of the opinion that planning permission would not be granted for a supermarket on the site. The East Sussex preferred option would be for a housing development.

Despite the setbacks and disappointments Rye Council is fighting on. They have gone directly to the top. The flawed proposal to relocate Postern Gate to the Memorial Care Centre site has been brought to the notice of Health Secretary, John Reid and his intervention has been requested.

Rye Town Council have little direct power but by working together, ruffling a few feathers, getting support from the local M.P., with the population on their side and going directly to the Minister, they may have done just enough to win the Battle of Heartbreak Hill.

“Rye’s Own” May 2004

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