The Lion Street School

An open letter to all those interested in, or connected with, the Lion Street Adult Education Centre.

I have been encouraged by a number of people from Rye to make a statement explaining the College’s position over the Lion Street Centre and the current proposals for its future. I am very happy to have the opportunity to do this. I know that many people care passionately about the Centre and are very concerned to see it retained for use by the people of the town. A number of quite proper concerns have been raised and I will do my best to answer these in as straightforward a manner as possible. I am also willing to meet with anyone who is interested to discuss these matters in more detail – and to enlist your help in making adult education in Rye the success we all want.

Can I begin by explaining something of the background to the College’s responsibility for the Lion Street site. This was transferred to the College from East Sussex County Council when this College, in common with all further education colleges in England and Wales, was incorporated as an independent body under the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act. This was not something the College sought, or wanted, but part of a nationwide process of transfer of such assets. At the same time the College was required to take over responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and for a sitting tenant, the Rye branch of the East Sussex Library service.

Since taking over the building, both before and during my time as Principal, we have tried very hard indeed to make the best of a very difficult situation and spent a very considerable amount of money on its upkeep and repair. At the same time we have tried a number of strategies to sustain and improve the adult education provision at the Centre, while becoming more and more convinced that both its location and its facilities are inadequate for the nature and variety of the work needed.

Meanwhile, the Library has become increasingly unhappy about its facilities and location and very anxious to move to improved accommodation.

The proposals for the “central garage” development in Cinque Ports Street do, we believe, provide an excellent opportunity for the Library to get that new accommodation and at the same time for the College to move to better located, modern accommodation where we can offer an enhanced, and more appropriate, programme of adult education. It may not be the perfect solution – and we do recognise that some compromises will have to be made – but given all the difficulties it is, we believe, the very best we can achieve. We have been pleased to have the support of both the Rye Partnership and SEEDA for these proposals. Having considered all the available options, both these organisations are also convinced that this move is the best possible way forward. SEEDA are now leading on ensuring that this whole package is financially viable and that it will provide the very best possible solution for all concerned.

Despite reports to the contrary, the College will not make money from this change. The proceeds of the sale of the Lion Street site, together with extra College resources, are set to be reinvested in our part of the Cinque Ports development. Indeed, we are committed to investing heavily in this new facility in a determined attempt to revitalise adult learning in Rye.

At the same time, the sympathetic redevelopment of Lion Street will, we believe, provide the people of Rye not only with a much improved building overall but also with a dedicated community facility which will be totally owned and run by, and for, them.

Although this does mean change, we genuinely believe that this change offers a “win win” situation for everyone. Above all, it will enable us, in partnership with others, to continue to provide adult education in Rye very much in the spirit of the original bequest. Current government priorities (and therefore funding) are tightly focused on the development of skills for employment. As a College we fully support those priorities but we also believe in fostering all types of adult learning and, indeed, were commended for the breath of our mission and our success in this aspect of our work in our 2002 Ofsted inspection report.

I hope that, having considered these factors, your readers might understand our position a little more fully. I would be very happy to organise a meeting at Lion Street to discuss any aspects of this letter or to listen to other concerns. We also want to hear ideas on what sorts of courses you might want to see in the new facility – and indeed at Lion Street this summer term and until the building is re-developed.

                                   The Lion Street School

                             The Very Heart of Rye
With best wishes

Yours sincerely

Julie Walker

Principal, Hastings College An open letter reply from The Editor of “Rye’s Own” to Julie Walker, Principal of Hastings College.

Dear Julie Walker

Your letter states the position of the Hastings College very clearly but Rye people are at a loss to understand why their building, which was given by John Meryon for the ‘Education of the children of Rye’ in perpetuity, is to be part used for dwellings, with some of the profits from the sale being used to buy computer set ups that will be outdated and valueless in a few years. Perpetuity, in my dictionary anyway, means eternity. I cannot see how providing more houses in the citadel can be in any way associated with benefiting the children of Rye!

The people of Rye are asking, why, if the new building is going to cost a million and a half, how does it make financial sense not to spend the money refurbishing the building that is already owned?

The reason given that it is difficult for older folk to walk up the hill does not hold water when they have been walking up there for the past sixty years and we are told that exercise is good for you. For those that are unable or do not wish to walk there is a community bus service that stops right outside the library.

Even if it were true that the library site is too far out of the way, why not build on the old Primary School site in Ferry Road which the County already owns? Indeed it would have been better if this had all been thought about earlier, before East Sussex County Council bulldozed the excellent school buildings that stood on the site and would have made a fine library.

The Lion Street School was put into the care of the Hastings College in 1992 and gave the College the responsibility of maintaining the building. Despite what you say about College money being spent, a cursory look around the Lion Street School indicates that nothing much has been done to stop the building falling into its present state of disrepair.

The move to the Central Garage site, would in your own words “Not be the perfect solution” and, of course, “some compromises would have to be made.”

It certainly would not be the perfect solution and going by what was said at the recent Rye Partnership A.G.M., may never happen. Funding and planning problems plus opposition in many quarters of the town have put the scheme in jeopardy.

It may well be that Hastings College would be better off talking to Rye Town Council, the elected body of this town, and exploring ways the building could be returned to its rightful owners for the benefit of those it was intended for.

Yours very sincerely,

Jim Hollands. ~

March 2005 Issue of “Rye’s Own”

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