THERE are claims that Rye High Street is being swamped by too many restaurants and tea rooms.
The concerns come as Rye Town Council’s planning committee considered two more applications to convert retail units into cafe and restaurant space when it met this week.
One application was to change two units at 105 and 105 A High Street, formerly a shop, into a large cafe or restaurant, and the other was to convert a currently closed shop, at 25 High Street, into a cafe.
More than 30 local residents and traders have signed a petition against the 105 High Street application, saying it will prevent small retail businesses from opening and have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on existing tea rooms and cafes.
Rye Mayor Cllr Shaun Rogers objected to both applications and said: “It’s fantastic that people want to open new businesses in Rye but we have to get the balance right between retail and tea-shops and restaurants.
“We seem to be getting an awful lot of applications of this type and this could be one too far.
“When people come to Rye they need things to buy and do, not just eat and drink.
“We have already lost valuable retail space in the High Street when a library opened on the former Woolworths site.”
Planning committee chairman Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore, said: “Rye has become awash with tea-rooms and I am concerned the balance is tipping too far.
“The number of useful shops is dwindling and the town seems to be catering for visitors rather than residents.”
Cllr Heidi Foster said: “I am concerned about the number of empty shops. We can say no to the applications but then we are left with another empty shop.”
Cllr Jonathan Breeds said: “I went to Hythe recently and there is not one empty shop in their High Street.
“I believe Rye is a more attractive place but there were twice the number of visitors looking around Hythe.
“We need to look at the wider picture and ask why people are not coming here.”
Cllr Mike Eve said: “It has also gone the other way, some restaurants have closed and become shops.
“To try and change this dynamic would be a huge mistake. To say ‘this has always been this’ is a wrong solution.
“Our High Street is no longer a place where residents buy milk and eggs, they use supermarkets.”
Cllr Michael Boyd said: “My concern is that we are losing small retail units and units such as these are often used for start-up businesses.”
Cllr Rogers said: “You can’t say we’ll wait and see what happens and then end up with a High Street full of tea-rooms.”
Both applications were eventually passed by the committee.
Tell us what you think. Does Rye need more tea-rooms and restaurants or would shops be better? Is the balance right? Make your views known.