The start point is the many issues about Rye which concerns the community. The list comes from many contacts at events, meetings and numerous conversations. Not all the issues are being reflected in the Plan because they are not “spatial”, (concerned with land, buildings or related infrastructure). These will be passed onto Rye Town Council for separate action.
Future development will be balanced with the need for conservation, so that we can keep the best of Rye but enhance parts to make it more attractive and functional.
The Plan has eventually to pass a local referendum, therefore it is clear that the biggest challenge will be to find compromise between the differing interests of the groups enjoying Rye: residents, traders, workers, students and visitors!
In 2014, there has been too much detailed progress for it to appear in this article, but it can all be found on the website www.ryeneighbourhoodplan.org.uk
Anyone who still doubts the value of having a plan – over 1000 communities have been sufficiently convinced to make one – need to look no further than the way the Valley Park development was handled. This large green-field development was imposed, without local debate, on Rye by the Planning Authorities elsewhere.
The 2011 Act makes clear that neighbourhood planning cannot be used to block development, because of the demand for housing and business development across the land. What it does do is provide the means for the community to influence development to best suit the community, rather than it being imposed by developers.
In making the Plan, the approach is strategic and holistic. That is to say that there are many and various inter-related factors being considered including: the future house building requirement, how to achieve quality design, mitigate the flood risks, encourage future enterprise and employment, provide community facilities, design measures to better handle year on year increase of traffic volumes, improve links inside the Parish by improved cycle and pedestrian ways and to outside (including via the proposed fast javelin service from Bexhill to Ashford, stopping at Rye), protect and enhance green spaces and to encourage more environmentally friendly measures. Most importantly, the whole plan must be sustainable so that nothing planned will be regretted by our grandchildren!
With so much to consider, what then is emerging? There are many constraints on development in Rye. Because green-field sites will be protected and waterways, flood risks and protected areas prevent many sites being developed, the building blocks of the Plan are a few key sites, where there is scope for development.
The Valley Park build is well advanced for 161 dwellings. Flood risks have been mitigated but it is intended that there is a pedestrian link into Cooper Road and then on to meet the “Greenway” links to Grove Lane. There is also a site to the very west of the location, which provides the potential for development but it does sit alongside the gateway to the Town from Udimore.
The Former Tilling Green (TG) School site is being sold by East Sussex Council to a partnership of Rye Partnership and Amicus Horizon. The Plan is for a mix of housing and a community centre with some vital flood mitigation measures. The housing mix and size of the centre should be settled by consultation during the detailed planning phase starting in early 2015.
After many years, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have ended their dispute over the former Lower School Site and will dispose of the site, originally bought from East Sussex Council. The Rye Academy Trust is bidding to acquire it to enable much needed improvements to the existing Rye Academy. If this is successful then the “Education Quarter” would fill most of the location bounded by Love Lane, the Grove, the River Tillingham and the railway line. Within this location there are other projects including the extension of the Primary School, the establishment of a community garden. Related issues include the future of post 16 education and the Early Years Services. The Leisure Centre contract is up for renewal in spring 2016, at which time Rother District Council look to shed its £180k annual subsidy. Future arrangements need to be agreed. There are flood risks which also need to be addressed for the long term.
If the Rye Academy Trust succeeds in securing the Lower School Site then the Plan has to address the future needs for 7 day supermarket services. This is the subject of consultation with potential commercial operators.
The Rother District owned Gibbet Marsh site has been considered for various future uses. It provides an important green space and pedestrian access from Ferry Road to the Strand, but significant car parking remains underused, because visitors are often unaware of its ready access to the Town. Could this site provide options for the future?
The broad locations of the Winchelsea Road and Rock Channel have scope for development. The former is an important gateway to Rye from the west and has a mix of unattractive derelict sites, car lots and a car wash. Many believe that this could be much improved by mixed development of quality design. The position is complicated because there are several owners with differing ambition and the Environment Agency, which is reluctant to dispose of its holdings because revenue is lost to central Government. Instead, it prefers to lease, which presents an unattractive option to serious business investors. Various pieces of work are under way for this location: the possibility of land swops; improvements to the Rye Harbour Road junction. Importantly, a series of design principles for the whole area have been discussed, agreed and published.
The former Freda Gardham school site is liable for disposal after 2019, when the Environment Agency’s Eastern Rother Tidal Walls project mitigates flood risks to the east of Rye. ARRCC holds a short term lease for the school buildings and some of the immediate gardens from East Sussex Council. As and when the site is sold, then a future site has to be found for ARRCC. The Environment Agency explain that if a development of the Freda Gardham site should come before 2019 then any developer’s contribution might cause the flood defence work to be brought forward.
In adjacent parishes, there are considerations about employment and some new housing in Rye Harbour, and medical and burial facilities in Rye Foreign. Importantly, many are keen to keep the green-field strategic “gaps” between Rye and adjacent parishes to preserve the unique outline and nature of Rye.
By using volunteers the cost of the planning process has been kept to a minimum. National bodies Planning Aid and RTPI have made grants and provided consultants. Close contact has been maintained with Rother Council’s Planning Officers for local advice and assistance, particularly to ensure that the Plan conforms with higher strategy.
The intention is to have agreed by Rye Town Council a draft plan before the May 2015 elections. The process for wider consultation leading to referendum would progress through 2015.
The opportunity to make a Neighbourhood Plan provides the community to take a vital and strategic view of Rye for the future. For those who live, work or study in Rye, it is not too late to get involved. Individuals can volunteer or to see what is being considered, then please contact via the website, Facebook page or Twitter: @ryenplan https://www.facebook.com/ryenplan
www.ryeneighbourhoodplan.org.uk or just write to Rye Town Hall.
Anthony Kimber PhD
19 December 2014