SUPERMARKETS have been accused of turning an area of Rye into a slum as the battle to open a store drags on.
Properties bought up by Sainsbury’s and Tesco to make way for a new supermarket entrance have been falling into a derelict state and attracting rats and vandals say concerned residents.
The Ferry Road area is being blighted by unsightly boarded up homes, broken windows, graffiti and overgrown gardens.
The plight of residents is being taken up by Rye councillors Shaun Rogers and Bernardine Fiddimore, who raised the issue at a planning meeting this week.
One upset resident commented: “Those homes are in a terrible state and growing worse all the time. People here are worried about the vandalism it is attracting and generally feel unsafe.
“The two big supermarkets have shown no consideration or respect at all for the people who live in this area or for our historic town.
“They come up with their attractive looking plans for a new supermarket and yet they are turning this corner of Rye into a slum. It is disgraceful.”
Rye Town Clerk Richard Farhall said: “Rye Town Council is very concerned that neither Tesco nor Sainsbury’s appears to be in a position to develop the former Thomas Peacocke Lower School site. In the meantime the various empty properties owned by both companies bordering the site are deteriorating rapidly - attracting rodents and vandals - and gardens are becoming overgrown.
“As well as presenting a poor impression to hundreds of thousands of visitors to our ancient town (upon which the local economy depends), this undesirable state of affairs has caused occupants of neighbouring residential properties to experience anxiety and uncertainty.
“On 5 January the council wrote to the CEOs of both companies, alerting them to the unsatisfactory consequences of the current impasse, asking them to familiarise themselves with the situation and take action.
“As at 16 January, neither CEO had addressed the council’s concerns. Although there has been no response at all from the Tesco CEO, Philip Clarke, the letter to Sainsbury’s CEO, Justin King has been acknowledged and there has been positive contact with Sainsbury’s agent, GKA.
The council will continue to put pressure on both companies, encouraging them to maintain the properties they own around the site and to swiftly reach agreement on its future.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Sainsbury’s maintenance team has undertaken works to the properties we own in Ferry Road on a number of occasions over the last few months and we have been liaising with our neighbours and responding to their concerns. In order to avoid anti-social behaviour and prevent damage being caused we have secured the properties.
“When we have been contacted by residents in the past we have taken immediate steps to respond and address any issues raised. We have previously investigated claims of anti-social behaviour and rodents in the vacant properties and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“A maintenance team visited the properties in the first week of January to repair the fence in the garden of number 39 and tidy the gardens. Members of the Sainsbury’s development team also visited Ferry Road last week to review the properties and meet with our neighbours to discuss their concerns.
“We are currently investigating the possibility of re-letting properties in Ferry Road and our contractors will be undertaking additional maintenance as required. In the short-term, we are also looking to replace the secure shutters with an alternative solution.
“We understand the concern that this process may be causing for local residents and are actively seeking a resolution to the situation which has arisen since our application was approved by the Planning Committee of Rother District Council in September 2011. We hope to make progress with Tesco regarding their land ownership as soon as possible.”
The Observer approached Tesco but they had not commented at the time of going to press.