“Rother No Good to Man Nor Beast” Angry residents packed Rye Town Hall on Tuesday 7 December for what was probably the most important, specially convened meeting to be held in the historic building since World War Two.
Councillors queued up to slam Rother District Council’s ‘Cabinet’ proposals to close all the town’s public toilets and to renege on their agreement to provide £50,000 funding for the Tourist Information Centre.
There were calls for Rother to return the toilets, including their freeholds, back to Rye (they were snatched away from the old Rye Borough Council in the local government changes in 1974 when Rother District Council came into being) along with the Car Parks which would be needed to fund their maintenance.
This was one of those defining moments in history when Rye Town Council were united against a common enemy, for that is what Rother have become. Many claims have been made recently that Rother is interested in serving Bexhill at the expense of Rye, Battle and the villages. This was made crystal clear by the figures that George Shackleton revealed at the meeting. He listed the numbers and amounts of grants made in Bexhill’s interest and contrasted them to what had been given in other areas of the District.
Councillor Peter Dyce explained that over two thirds of all beds for tourism were in the Rye, Winchelsea and Camber sector of the District. This also applied to the number of caravans. The Rye T.I.C. had 250,000 enquiries through its doors alone plus many thousands more by phone and e-mail. This figure was more than double the total of Bexhill and Battle enquiries put together! The annual revenue from Rye Car Parks, £160,000, was also more than Bexhill and Battle combined.
A cry went up, “Where is the Town Manager?” Sarah Dixson, Chairman and Rye Chamber representative at Rye Partnership, reported that Town Manager Yolanda Leybourne had been ‘advised’ in an e-mail from Rother (who pay her wages even though she works out of the Rye Partnership offices) NOT to attend! This news was received with utter astonishment.
Rother have kicked Rye around long enough!”I fail to see why we should save Rother £100,000 a year and get nothing back from them. We should be shot of
Rother altogether. They are no good to man nor beast” -Councillor Roger Breeds
Rye’s two District Councillors Sam Souster and Granville Bantick, neither of whom are ‘Cabinet’ members, slammed Rother. Councillor Souster described how he had been treated in such a rude manner when asking a question on Rye’s behalf o f ‘Leader’ Gubby that he got up and walked out!
Councillor Bantick talked of the legal implications to Rother in closing the Loos. “We must not allow Rye taxpayers to bear the cost” he said.
A committee was formed to organise a demonstration at Bexhill on Monday 20 December when the Cabinet proposals came before the full Council. Over 100 people from Rye demonstrated outside the Rother offices at Bexhill. Live Television cameras were present and recorded the scenes and the views of the protesters. Rother officials declined the offer to be interviewed.
The upshot of the meeting resulted in a u-turn by Rother. Four of Rye’s public toilets will now be kept open and paid for out of the Rother purse but the Rope Walk loo, home of the old Rye Soup Kitchen, will be closed.
£30,000 of the promised £50,000 for Rye T.I.C. will now be forthcoming but if Rother do not release the £20,000 balance as promised it is almost certain that Rye Town Council will take legal advice – they are in no mood for compromise on this subject.
From “Rye’s Own “ January 2005
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