Councillor Bantick’s Abbreviated Speech
Following the meeting Councillor Granville Bantick issued an abbreviated copy of his speech. It is reproduced here in full.
“There has been disquiet over the activities of the Rye Partnership over many years. From the outset it became difficult to disentangle the relationship between Rother District Council and the Rye Partnership, which later became further complicated in that the then Head of Regeneration, Mr Mark Evershed, became the Partnership’s Secretary, a position which soon became apparent as having a conflict of interests, especially as he had become the major executive in charge of Partnership activities in Rye.
Many at the outset criticised the un-demographic nature of this organisation, but in the beginning it was believed its aims were laudable. Doubts surfaced when the public were told money would be available for a number of ambitious programmes for which there was a lack of clarity as to how these would be financed as accounts were often never presented at meetings or were incomplete.
The public’s anxiety was not abated when very ambitious plans were presented to them for the proposed development on the site of the old Central Garage of a mixed development consisting of maisonettes, a town library, and a space for Hastings College and a Housing Association. There were many vociferous local objections to the plan – the design was thought inappropriate for the conservation area of a historic town and the library was thought too small. Regrettably there was too little consultation in the Partnership’s desire to push the plans through. Following a series of negotiations with bankers, the owner of the site and Seaspace, Rye Partnership and its partners had to abandon the project as it was generally thought the project was not viable. The site was cleared for development at a cost of £90,000. To this day the site remains undeveloped and it has been left for the County Library authorities to try and negotiate with the site owner for a minimum library space. Plans for a library and flats only was submitted to the Planning Authority but were not accepted in the form in which they were presented and a revision was requested. We now understand that fresh plans are to be submitted in the near future. It is undoubtedly a disastrous story which leaves much to be concerned about. The question often asked is whether the Rye Partnership should have taken on the role of a property developer which was never its remit in the first place. The Rye Partnership has been largely kept afloat by the financial largesse of the District Council which has had to continually pump tax payer’s money into the organisation as there was insufficient income arising from their property portfolio. Then recently there was the problem that arose in the local fishing industry when local fishermen objected to the plans to change Rye Fisheries to light industrial workshops which would lose jobs. In fact Rother’s planners were unconvinced of assurances given to the fishermen that the building would still be used for fish processing. This matter has still to be resolved.
It is my belief, and that of a great many people in Rye, that there needs to be an independent enquiry into the affairs of the Rye Partnership. My proposal to ask the Rye Town Council to support such an enquiry was lost, but will be further debated at the next Full Council meeting when it is hoped a greater number of petitioners will have signed. Whilst there have been some admirable projects initiated by the Rye Partnership over the years there has on the other hand been some very bad decisions, and unfortunately due to a lack of communication and accountability the general public have rightly become cynical.
Until there is an enquiry the public will not be satisfied. If the Rye Partnership, as it seems from what has been said by the Chairman of Rye Partnership, has no objection to a full investigation, then it has nothing to fear, and at last hopefully this matter can be put to bed once and for all.”
Published in Rye’s Own December 2007 Issue
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