With the holiday season largely over and the children back at school we start a new rhythm of daily life having had a disappointing long spell of inclement weather this summer. My wife and I have just returned from a holiday in the sun to return to rain and gales. However, not everything is depressing as the evenings draw in and the rain hammers on the window panes. Rye is fortunate in having a great number of events during the year. Currently as I write the Rye Festival is in full swing. It is wonderful to have so many distinguished artists and speakers coming to Rye to showcase their talent. There is something for everyone’s tastes. We must give praise to all those on the Festival Committee who give of their time every year to organise this prestigious event.
It appears open revolt has arisen over the Prime Minister’s latest plan to allow large extensions in back gardens. To help revive the economy he wants homeowners to be able to build out as far as 26 feet without planning permission which doubles the size allowed at present. It does not take much imagination to see how it set neighbour against neighbour and cause planning blight. It has been said it could also affect property prices. It is supposed to be in effect for a three-year period only, but for whatever period, it is in my opinion a total mistaken policy which, as seems usual with this government, has not been properly thought through. Already Nick Boles, the planning minister, has started to suggest that local councils could opt out of the reform. It is hoped by many councils that it will be scrapped altogether, and I wait to hear whether Rother District Council is one of those councils.
There has been another outcry over the plan to down grade Hastings Fire Station on the Ridge which could put Rye at risk. As has been reported the Ridge Fire Station provides a vital backup cover for and the surrounding villages. One will recall how their services were needed to quell the fire in Camber and deal with the chemical spillage at Rye Harbour in recent times. To be down graded to retained station means the station would be unmanned for much of the time with an on-call crew. One could imagine a scenario with firemen and their appliances being delayed to assist local fire fighting services. In Rye this could be a disaster with many ancient buildings in the town being at risk of conflagration if not attended rapidly. The same applies to the chemical works in Rye Harbour should another spillage occur. Councillor Mary Smith correctly says that it is a vital public service and Amber Rudd MP has also said she would oppose it and is reported in saying she is to present a petition in the chamber of the House of Commons before the end of the 12 week consultation. She is asking residents to contact her for a hard copy of the petition.
Unfortunately I was on holiday when residents of Rye’s Valley Park development got together to enjoy a community picnic with local partnerships including local councillors to learn more about groups and services available in the area. This was a splendid initiative by the housing association, Orbit South, to boost neighbourhood spirit and encourage residents to become involved to interact with the wider community. It is hoped that newcomers to Valley Park will feel more inclusive following this get together knowing that Rye has much on offer and is a friendly place.
The Rye Emergency Action Team (REACT) meets regularly under the chairmanship of Col Anthony Kimber. I, myself, am an active member of REACT and sit on their committee. Perhaps not much may be known about this Group but the key word in the title is ACTION. REACT partakes in immediate civil emergencies with our Emergency Response partners. There is a Rye Community Emergency Plan which is designed to facilitate a contribution by the local community to any major emergency response by calling on volunteers, local resources, providing local knowledge and aiding communication. In every sense of the word it is a TEAM. Often we are asked what we are doing at present to ensure we are always geared up for any emergency which might occur? Our volunteers are our eyes and ears for any possibility of flooding or mishap with the SUDs system and blockage of the drainage ditches. We review the risks regularly with Southern Water, the Environment Agency and the management at Valley Park, ensuring the continued maintenance of sea defences and the long term maintenance of the mechanisms for preventing flooding. Regular public meetings are arranged in order to update the public, and allay any concerns they may have. Next Spring REACT are organising an event to be known as Operation Amphibian to be incorporated in the Rye Bay Flood Plan, its purpose being to test evacuation procedures. This will be well publicised, and allow people to attend a meeting at the Town Hall afterwards to assess the result of the exercise on a table top map.