By Jim Hollands
(Written in 2012)
Looking back seven years to the August 2005 issue of “Rye’s Own” I came across the following piece I wrote at that time which contained predictions of what could happen to Rye during the following eight years. I was interested to know how accurate I had been with just one year of the eight left to run.
(Written in 2005)
News of a new supermarket in Rye has been trickling out from East Sussex County Council officials. We are being lead to believe that the Ferry Road school site will be the home of a new Tesco outlet. They (ESCC) can’t tell us officially what chain it is as it is subject to a ‘confidentialities clause’ but as Tesco have a reserved right to buy the Queen Adelaide and presumably the actual site and the railway ground adjacent to it, it may well be that one of the few remaining community owned sites is going to be sold off for a commercial use that could be detrimental to the overall well-being of the town.
But what if all this is a bluff?
County have decided that the two existing primary schools, Freda Gardham and Tilling Green, should be knocked down and replaced by one new school sited on the last playing area on the Thomas Peacocke campus and taking some of the adjacent allotments as well. Could it be that a new, and even larger store, could be built on the Freda Gardham site and the Ferry Road ground used for housing, as was originally planned by the County?
And what of the Tilling Green site?
Why, this will make an excellent entry to the new housing development they have in mind for the North side of Udimore Road. To sum up, my predictions are that within eight years there will be a new major chain supermarket at either New Road or Ferry Road, the remainder of the area at both sites will be filled with houses (half of which will be used as holiday homes). There will be some provision made for ‘affordable housing’ whatever that may mean. Tilling Green will be the entrance to a massive new housing development that will stretch right up to the top of Cadborough Hill where there will be a further entrance joining the Udimore Road at a roundabout.
Whatever is done we can be sure that the people of Rye will have little say in it unless some sort of power is restored to our Town Council. Time is fast running out if Rye is to be saved for what it is, “one of the five towns in England most worthy of preservation.” (English National Heritage 1969)
Rye will never be the same if it is surrounded by a sea of houses. The population of Rye is 4,500, the same as it was in 1950. So where is the demand coming for all these new dwellings? I can tell you, it is in great part from people wanting to buy holiday homes. There are so many houses in the town already used as second homes that some streets are only half populated in the winter months. Perhaps instead of building new homes it might be time to charge a much higher Council Tax on properties used as second homes (at present it is LESS than for a permanent occupier). This might free up some housing stock in the town and discourage the need for building so many in the future.
The Ferry Road site should have been used to house the new Library and Doctor’s Surgeries. The remainder of the ground could have been set out as a safe cycle/ footpath to the Thomas Peacocke and recreation area. If East Sussex County Council had acted as soon as the school was closed the buildings there would have suited the purpose at very little cost but it was left open to vandals and County used this as an excuse to bulldoze the buildings.
Beside the Freda Gardham and Ferry Road Schools another of Rye’s old schools is under imminent threat of being changed into living accommodation. The Lion Street School was given by John Meryon for the education of the children of Rye, in perpetuity, how can it be that the powers that be are able to ride rough shod over the wishes of the original benefactor and of the people?
There are two things that may save the town from a vast new house building programme in the immediate future. One is the massive protest that will come from those that want to see Rye saved from suburbanisation and the second being the ongoing drop in demand for houses that have out priced the market. If the prices begin to fall the speculators will not be so keen to get their hands on the green fields around the town. If fate plays a hand and postpones the day that the earth movers descend in force then there is all the more reason for Rye Town Council to claim back some power and be in a more commanding position the next time a boom in the market sends property prices soaring again.
As I look back over these words I can see little change in the direction I portended East Sussex County Council would take.
Since the passing of Rye’s great champion, Keith Taylor of CDR, Rye’s single greatest hope of getting some sort of power back to Rye Town Hall has been diminished. The Campaign for a Democratic Rye resolve to persuade Rother District Council to change to Area Committee Status has weakened. The arguments over trivial matters continue in Rye Town Hall but as time goes by more and more Ryers realise that most things decided in the historic building are meaningless. It is a chamber without power.
Store War Stalemate
The STORE WARS between Tesco and Sainsbury over the Ferry Road site are in stalemate. As I see it Sainsbury wants to build a supermarket and Tesco, who, in my mind have eyes on New Road, just intend to stop them until New Road becomes available after the flood defences have been constructed.
So what of the future? It seems to me that this town has two ‘trump’ cards left if it wants to preserve the Tilling Green School site and the Freda Gardham School and grounds for public use, and they are in the hands of the people of Rye.
The people of Tilling Green have made a good start. The school is now being used as a Community Centre by Tilling Green. This is despite the electric and gas facilities in the building being ripped out when the school was closed and sealed off. (NOT turned off – ripped out). ESCC blamed it on VANDALISM but strangely it seems did not report such a serious matter to the police.
Public opinion forced East Sussex to restore the building to public use but I suspect they still have every intention of knocking it down and building ‘affordable housing’ on the site and leaving the people of Tilling Green with a MUCH smaller community building with no outdoor area..
Of the two TRUMP CARDS left to Rye, Tilling green holds one. The land around the school is designated as sports area and as such can only be used for other purposes with the express permission of the Secretary of State. This permission will rarely be given if the ground is used regularly for sporting activities. For example, if there were Junior soccer team training sessions on a weekly basis. It is in the hands of the people involved with the Tilling Green Community Centre to promote some activity like this. The other problem that County will present is the cost of maintaining the building and grounds. This is a poor argument when Iden, a village of 300 people, runs and maintains TWO excellent buildings and raises the cash to maintain them with Fate’s and many other activities.
To think, as ESCC representatives are saying, that the 2000 people who live on Tilling Green could not support the existing fine building and grounds is an insult. As for looking after the fabric of the building, many of the craftsmen and tradesmen of this town actually live on Tilling Green and there would be, no doubt, many qualified volunteers to look after such an asset to the quality of life that the centre can provide for their family and friends.
Rye’s other ‘trump card’ is that a similar situation exists at the Freda Gardham site in New Road. Again there is a designated sporting area on all the grassed areas behind the old school building. This should have been offered on a long term basis to Rye United when the pavilion was burned down by arsonists. Some kind of sporting activity needs to take place here or when the flood defences are constructed or this land may be re designated by the Home Secretary and taken out of public hands forever.
Ryers have been known down the years for their resolve in the face of outside interference. When the French raided and burned the town in 1448 Ryers exacted a terrible revenge the following year, it was a lesson it seems that was well learned for the French did not dare return to Rye.
One other good sign is the emergence of ‘Fletcher in Rye CIC’ a group who are seeking to prevent the old Lion Street School (Further Education Centre and former Rye Library) from being turned into flats and taken out of public use. Their plan is to convert the building into a Theatre and Cinema, a scheme which seems to be on target at the present time.
As an Ancient Town of the Cinque Ports Confederation, Rye was an integral part of the defence of England and the inhabitants of this town, who built and manned the ships that were part of the Cinque Ports Fleet, had a reputation as fine ship builders and a fearsome fighting force.
It was here that the reformists led the way to ousting the corrupt system of local government that prevailed throughout England in the early 1800’s. It was the defiance of Rye farmers that led to the last reading of the Riot Act in England in which guns were actually fired.
The people of Rye are a patient lot but dig their toes in when that which is theirs is about to be taken from them. This has been demonstrated recently by the fight to get the allotments back into the ownership of Rye from Rother and the insistence by the residents of Tilling Green that the redundant school buildings should be un-boarded and put to community use.
The unbelievably petty restrictions imposed by EU Health and safety regulations and the unimaginative way they are interpreted in this country means that voluntary groups who want to organise events and functions are sometimes faced with almost insurmountable problems, unbelievably high insurance premiums being one of them. Comparing what happens in France (where, in theory’, the same EU Heath & Safety Regulations apply), when a town or village wants to organise an event it seems the only sanction needed is the approval of the Mayor. ‘Nocturns’ (Evening cycle races round the streets in a built up area) are very popular. The whole town is shut down to through traffic. Tabacs (Cafe/Bars) put chairs and tables down the pavements. Everyone has a great time.
Imagine If ….
Imagine if Rye Mayor, Shaun Rogers, sanctioned such an event in Rye. There would be an uproar. Police would object, residents would have to use a car park instead of parking outside their front door, gridlock on roads around the town would cause a National Emergency and Shaun, who is after all a fireman and should know better, might end up in the Tower of London!
It is a good job Rye has it’s Bonfire Society. They have not bowed to pressure over the years to cancel the annual Rye Fawkes Night celebrations. The Rye public have supported them in money raising events throughout the year to pay for putting on the show, including the insurance. ALL monies collected on the night go to local charities.
Written Today (31 July 2015)
Many of our predictions have materialised or are about to materialise. Tesco were bluffing – It seems they never intended building a store at the Ferry Road School site.
Building is planned for the Tilling Green School site – And the people of Tilling Green are to be fobbed off with a Community building and grounds far to small for an area with a population of over 2000 people. It is being claimed by Rye Partnership, I am told, that the Home Secretary has already sanctioned a change of use to allow the majority of the ground on the site to be used for “Affordable” dwelling houses. I should like to see some proof of the Home Secretary’s directive and question if correct public notice was issued in advance of the appeal to the Home Secretary.
A round-about has been built at the top of Cadborough
Building is planned for the Freda Gardham School site (Tesco will not be coming here as we predicted because the value of their stores has dropped dramatically and the company, which is the second biggest landowner in the country, next to the government, have had to abandon plans to build more stores and close some that are unprofitable)
A fine cinema has been installed at the Lion Street School building (No thanks to Rye Partnership or East Sussex County Council)
The system is wrong – Rye Town Council should be running this town – Not Rye Partnership, Rother and East Sussex County Council.
“Rye’s Own” September 2012
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