THERE have been calls to use the derelict Lower School site in Rye for new housing.
The site is currently at the centre of a planning row between supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsburys.
The calls come as Rye MP Amber Rudd brought the two sides together at a Parliament peace meeting on Monday and says she is ‘optimistic’ that an agreement is close.
Ms Rudd said the meeting was positive although both sides were reluctant to set a timetable for pushing forward to find a solution.
She said: “I was delighted to get 100% attendance. It was encouraging that both supermarkets stated their commitment to resolve this dispute ASAP. Both Tesco and Sainsburys said they understood the irritation and dissatisfaction of residents. Although there was some tension between the parties there was also an awareness that they must arrive at a resolution.”
Although both parties were reluctant to set a timetable, Amber stressed that she would be pressing for an update within four weeks. Following the meeting Amber has written to the Chief Executives of both supermarkets with an update and continuing to push for a resolution.
“Although I cannot influence commercial negotiations I can make it clear that it is time to put the needs of the residents first. I am optimistic that an agreement is very close.”
Network Rail also attended and expressed their willingness to work towards a solution to suit an accelerated timetable.
But Christopher Strangeways, of Rother Environmental Group, said: “The land that Tesco and Sainsbury are now fighting over was originally meant to be for housing and was designated for this in Rother’s Local Plan 2006.
“The policy stated: ‘The site is suitable for at least 32 dwellings of which 40% are to be affordable. The development should involve the necessary junction improvements to provide access and developer contributions will be required for off-site works’.
“Despite this being in the plan the County Council together with the District Council conspired together to sell it to a supermarket - against the wishes of the local community as set out in the adopted local plan.
“The solution to the Supermarket deadlock is to return the land to the use for which it was originally intended - much needed housing.”
Many Rye residents though have raised concerns over the need for a new supermarket, that opens on Sundays, and more choice.
A Rother District Council report showed that trade is leaking out of Rye as many families travel to Hastings or Tenterden for their big weekly shop.
Some existing housing in Ferry Road has already been lost after being acquired by the supermarkets. It is likely they will be demolished, along with the Queen Adelaide pub, to make room for an access road to the new store.