Rother stance on allotments is ‘illogical’

While we are very grateful for Councillor Sam Souster’s support for the restoration of Rye’s Allotments to the Town Council (Observer 4.3.2011), and indeed the whole article, one paragraph needs to be clarified. It reads: “Following an initiative by Rye Allotments Association RTC approached RDC requesting the return of ownership of the allotments”.

Briefly, in the early months of this century, Rye Town Councillors became aware that RDC had scheduled statutory allotment land for house building. The draft plans became Policy RY3 of 2007, which had the South Undercliff site as a potential estate.

However, the alarm having been raised in 2000, discussions about the legal status of Rye’s two allotment sites were held in 2001, and the Town Clerk hosted a meeting of allotment holders in the Town Hall in February 2002 to judge whether the allotments had any worthwhile support. Because the “drive” was coming from RTC, meeting at scheduled intervals, the next meeting was not held until 9 January 2003. An interim committee of Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary was then set up. In March 2003, 13 people became founder members. It now has on average 50 subscribing members annually, and we think there is more than 90% occupancy of about 95 plots.

Our job is to support RTC in its campaign to have ownership and management of the plots repatriated. We want Rother Councillors to simply vote to return them without anyone having to run up huge legal fees. When that happens, RTC will register the lands at the Land Registry as statutory allotments, which means they will be safeguarded either in perpetuity or until an Act of Parliament decides other wise. The Association will manage them on behalf of RTC at no cost to the taxpayers.

Mr Farhall’s letter of 21 November 2002 inviting allotment holders to the January 2003 meeting was widely disseminated; both the Rye Observer, and Councillor Souster as then chairman of the Leisure and Tourism Committee, received copies.

As the article makes plain, RDC’s present stance is illogical. RDC’s claim to ownership rests solely on its registration of itself as the owner at the Land Registry in the 1980s. There is now a legal anomaly, with statutory allotment land in the ownership of one party, and the legal function of providing such plots in the hands of another. A simple vote by RDC’s 39 district councillors would resolve the issue.

Royston Godwin

Government and Local Government Affairs Officer Rye Allotments Association.