A new beginning for Rye

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At a packed public Annual General Meeting on the 4th February members of the former Campaign for a Democratic Rye voted unanimously to dissolve the Group and form a new group called CFAiR ( Campaign for Action in Rye).

The primary aim of the new group is to make Rye a more attractive place to live which would attract more visitors who would in turn help our economy and enliven the town.

A further aim was to improve and protect Rye’s historic and communal infrastructures neglected over many years. The Group would support all town activities and the many organizations already working for Rye and its citizens – from Rye Town Council, the Rye Neighbourhood Plan, Rye Partnership, the Rye and District Community Transport Group, the Tilling Green Residents Association and many others.

So what caused the demise of the CDR you may ask? I think it was obvious that support had been waning for some time. Its founding fathers had noble aspirations that it could change the political scene with public support, and bring greater democracy to Rye and its surrounding parishes by hoping to create a new structure of area committees, similar to what many other local authorities have created for themselves.

As time went by, the frustration of not achieving its aims for a change in local governance due to the opposition of Rother District Council and the lack of support from the parishes, CDR came to the conclusion that there was a need for it to reinvent itself and to consider a new strategy.

There was criticism of CDR’s approach at the 2011 Town Council elections. It was with much euphoria that the election that year produced ten CDR councillors, but its mandate was seen by some, probably rightly, as being unachievable in the short term.

By having a CDR majority on the Town Council it was hoped to be able to exert pressure on the District Council to change its mind with regard to the creation of Area Committees.

However, this soon fell apart with the resignation of four of the newly elected CDR councillors feeling that the CDR had “lost its way”. Further resignations followed for other reasons. The CDR gave a lot of time endeavouring to persuade the neighbouring parishes to join its cause, but it was soon realised that they were not to be persuaded, and that such a radical change was not for them preferring to stay with the status quo.

Whether CDR’s original aspirations will ever be achieved the fact has to be faced that it is probably unlikely until there is a massive change in how local government is reorganized. The cash-strapped authorities may well one day have no alternative but to form a unitary authority combining Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council.

Membership waned and in the past year the CDR was left with a tiny committee of four led enthusiastically by the newly elected chairman, Alan Bolden, who was determined not to let the CDR die. He took a fresh approach with the assistance of his small group to write a letter to the Town Council to complain about the deteriorating state of the town and its poor appearance, listing many of the obvious areas requiring attention.

This stirred a few feathers, and all of a sudden CDR’s grievances were being examined and action was being taken. Some examples of the changes are already apparent. The CDR had pressed Rye Town Council to secure additional burial space in Rye Cemetery. Rother agreed to commission a ground survey to confirm areas where existing graves were located which could open up more space for burials.

Again, with pressure from the CDR the iconic Landgate Arch is at last to be cleaned u, and the structure surveyed for possible repairs. It is also hoped the illuminations and the clock will be repaired.

CDR had already started to reinvent itself, and now the metamorphosis is complete. It is indeed a new beginning for Rye, and in May a there is to be an election for a new Town Council. It is hoped the new intake will be enthusiastic and wanting in bringing about better things for Rye which CFAiR is seeking.

To quote John Howlett “campaign, action and scrutiny, together with community support at all levels, are the new foundations for CDR’s heir.”

The new group now has the task of forming a committee and a new constitution in the coming weeks at a succession of weekly meetings. The last of these will take place on the 11th and 18th March, at 7.00pm at the Rye Club, Market Road, Rye. All of those interested in supporting CFAiR in Rye are very welcome.