Rye Cllr clarifies allotments stance

Dear Sir,

I feel sorry that Cllr. Smith in her letter (Observer 11/3/11), doubts my good intentions regarding the allotments, and feels I have changed my stance purely for electoral purposes. However, it is illogical to think that the results of the election in May will hinge on whether or not I support the Allotments Association.

To explain any confusion or misunderstandings

Rother District Council (RTC) gained the allotments because RYE TOWN COUNCIL (RTC) GAVE THEM TO RDC, this is a matter of Council record. Also it is a standard financial practice for various proportional costs to be allocated when a senior company or organisation performs tasks for another, but the level of payment in this case would appear to be excessive.

As a councillor for 12 years I have always exercised personal probity and concern for the electorate as a whole, and felt and continue to feel this is not a time to indulge in legal actions, with uncertain outcomes, that will incur unknown costs to be borne by the electorate of both RDC and RTC, and I agree, a vote by RDC councillors, introduced by our two District Councillors, could effect change in a cost free manner.

For two years while the allotments were a constant agenda item with many hours of debate I was chairman of Council, where it is necessary to be impartial, direct proceedings in a businesslike manner, and not take partisan stances. After completing my chairmanship, I was away from Council for some considerable time before and following hip replacement surgery, and only comparatively recently after my return did the issue of re the allotments come back to Council.

I admit that the 125 year lease appeared to me a do-able compromise, but was one that did not appeal to the Allotments Association, that is why at the last Council meeting I VOTED TO REJECT THE OFFER OF A LEASE, this was obviously missed by Cllr. Smith.

Following that Council meeting, and with RDC’s spending review in mind, I thought the situation needed clarification, and my letter to the Observer, which appeared as an article, was intended to give that clarification. This is understood by the Affairs Officer of the Rye Allotments Association, who welcomes my intervention.

We all know that RTC should be the lawful owner but isn’t. The allotments are a loss-making service. RDC has to make savings of over £1 million and is intending to offer some services to RTC, therefore, I thought it a worthy question to RDC’s Director of Resources at the Annual Town Meeting to ask why RDC is determined to hold on to them. Had Cllr Smith been at that meeting she could have asked the same question, one to which we still await an answer.

Regarding the implication that RDC may have untrustworthy motives regarding building on the sites, a 125 year lease with a sterilisation clause would prevent building on this land for the duration of the lease, or in perpetuity; such a clause might even be more effective than “statutory” if a future government changes legislation. It would also prevent a future RTC, should it become owners, doing exactly the same thing.

I hope my stance is now understood by everyone, and that we can have fewer cheap jibes.

Yours faithfully, Cllr. Sam Souster