Government Inspector Rules Homes Should Be Built
By The Editor
This is one story I dreaded I would have to report but as I have recorded many times in these pages over the past two years, it was a foregone conclusion.
With Rother District Council fighting our corner we had little chance of stopping the development taking place. Rother leaders speak with forked tongues and even had two of our own voting along with them when it came to a six month or four year retention of the ground on reserve.
The only thing now that will stop the ‘FIRST PHASE’ of 135 houses (I say first phase because that is what it had printed on the plans displayed at the Tilling green Primary School when Aroncorp, the developers, invited the public to view them) being built on the green field site to the north of Udimore Road, is the looming recession and the resulting tumbling of house prices. Despite all that has been claimed about 40% ‘affordable homes’ there is just one reason for building here – profit. No profit, no houses. The ground will be left dormant until the prices go up again.
Why do I blame Rother? Because it was the Rother Cabinet who decided the land should be released from the reserve, “bowing to pressure from the government” they said. The fact that building on this land will almost certainly exacerbate flooding on Tilling Green and the fight against the development was backed by almost EVERY person in Rye, cut no ice. The truth is, the Rother set-up is bad government for small towns and villages who have little say in what is happening in their own area.
For this reason a scheme was introduced back in the nineties to allow District, City and Borough Councils to divide into smaller units called Area Committees. 26% in England have already elected to go this way and the public in these areas are generally very happy with the new set-up. The Eastleigh system, the one I usually refer to as I have studied it in depth, has five Area Committees, they are responsible for both FISCAL and PLANNING on their own patch.
The Udimore Road scheme could not have been foisted on us if we were run under this system. Our Area Committee would have been advised by the overseeing body that they required X amount of new houses built in our area. 10 District Councillors sitting in Rye Town Hall (where we could see them), in close consultation with Rye and Winchelsea Town Councils, the Village Councils in the area and the people from the area would have to decide where they were to be built.
Rother District Council is vehemently opposed to splitting into three Area Committees because it is a party dominated council. Splitting into local bodies means that each councillor is closer to his electorate and has to bend in the direction they want him or her to go or risk being voted out next time. This weakens the party hold over him and stops ‘the steam roller’ in its tracks, allowing small towns and villages the power to decide their own destiny. This is called democracy, a commodity that has been rather on the weak side since 1974 when the new local government act came into force.
What would be the price of bringing real democracy back to small towns and villages in Rother?
In our area just £60,000 for an Area Co-ordinator. This would be offset ten fold by revenue from car parking fees in Rye and Camber which would stay in the area, and £250,000 a year, our share of feeding the “White Elephant” at Bexhill. This Area would be ‘in profit’ immediately.
Just 20 out of 38 needed
Are Area Committees legal? Of course they are legal! All that is needed to get Rother split into three is to persuade 20 of the 38 District councillors to vote for their formation and it could happen over night.
The people of Rye recently voted Mary Smith onto Rye Town Council. Mary is a member of the Campaign for Democracy in Rye group. Her only mandate from the group, in common with the other five who were promoted by the Campaign Group, is to get Rye Town Council to back the Area Committee system and put pressure on Rother to introduce it. Mary, and the others, are free to pursue any other projects off their own bat. They are completely free agents and are not, as some other councillors imply, a grouping similar to that of a party. They all deplore party politics in Rye Town Hall.
That is the one mandate they were all elected under. The fact that every candidate the Campaign have put up has been elected underlines the public’s feeling on Area Committees so surely the time has come for Rye Town Councillors to fall in line with the electorate’s wishes and get behind a scheme that offers the only way of getting decisions that count made in Rye Town Hall again.
Rye’s Own July 2008
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