Fiasco! Farce! Cock-up! These are some of the expressions of disgust expressed by many who have come to learn of the decision by Rother’s Planning Committee to approve the Tesco bid on the grounds that under the 2006 Local Plan the Lower School site should be used for housing while voting through an identical application from Sainsbury’s. The Tesco bid was also refused on the grounds of safety to pedestrians with regard to the rail crossing. It beggars belief that the committee felt one application was so different to the other. It appears after much soul searching that Rother is to re-examine the Tesco application again, the result of which will be known the day before this paper goes to print. Should it be refused a second time I have no doubt the big guns of Tesco will appeal against the decision
The bitter taste that is left is compounded by the way our District Councillor, Sam Souster, was treated at the Planning meeting when he was told by the Council’s solicitor that he was banned from further discussion when the Sainsbury’s application was next to be considered because of alleged conversation with two members of the public during the coffee break. Whilst there is a rule which says that committee members must not communicate with the public when applications are being considered, it is a known fact that this does frequently happen during breaks in proceedings, and rarely does it get reported. I am told that the complainant was a representative of Sainsbury’s who may have wished to use the opportunity to block a vote which may have gone against them. Big guns again?
At the Rye Town Council meeting on Monday the two main items on the Agenda were Devolution and the Local Development Framework Strategy Consultation. The first was very important to Rye and its future status, the second was equally important as how future development will effect the town.
On the 26th September Rother’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to discuss how best services might be devolved to the Town and Parishes in the District. A Working Group of 8 members was appointed to consider all aspects of the devolution of services and the benefits that could thereby be gained from so doing. A draft Terms of Reference was agreed by the committee. It was interesting to read that in many of the paragraphs contained in the Terms of Reference that Area Committees were mentioned no less than 4 times! This is of course of particular interest to those who support the aims of the Campaign for a Democratic Rye, its main plank seeing the creation of an Area Committee structure for the district. The Terms of Reference also sought to give consideration to the parishing of Bexhill which would be required of course before any Area Committee structure could be considered if devolution was to be meaningful. It is noted that Rother’s own Constitution does allow for Area Committees to be appointed if it meant service delivery could be ensured, be more efficient and make for more accountable decision-making. If it had not been for the Localism Bill which is passing through Parliament which is giving the nudge to local authorities to move towards greater devolvement of power to Town and Parish Councils, then Rother might have remained sitting on the fence. However, it must not be forgotten that the District Council is experiencing some very difficult decisions resulting from the Government’s austerity measures.
The Town Council passed a resolution that a Working Group be appointed as a precursor to convening a meeting between Rye Town Council and senior representatives of Rother District Council as soon as possible to discuss the devolution of services, changes in planning procedures and the overall status of Rye. The vote was unaminous. It was a propitious moment for the Council and an important step towards regaining much of the influence that for too long had been denied to the town. There is still a fair way to go yet, for as is said “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. I do think, however, the people of Rye can feel more optimistic.
The Local Development Framework Strategy Consultation document is in course of being finally completed following much work by some dedicated councillors, and its content was finally agreed after some amendments. It is hoped that Rother will accept our submission as it contains some very important subjects which effect our town.
Those like me who have just returned from a foreign holiday must have been rather miffed that we had missed out on a perfect Indian Summer! We always like to think we go abroad to find some warmth and sunshine to get away from the miserable weather in this country. Well, it is inevitable that the miserable weather will return to these shores, but let us hope we do not experience another dreadfully cold winter which will make for so much hardship for vulnerable and elderly people. The Town Council has been busy preparing for the worst and has ordered an additional four yellow salt bins from East Sussex County Council in areas most vulnerable to icy conditions. Rye Town Council would be the owners of these bins which it is hoped County will allow to be lockable. If they can be locked it is intended to give a local resident a key for the purpose of unlocking their nearest bin upon snow falling. The Town Council would be obliged to refill the bins itself. The Council’s winter maintenance preparations are to be publicised.