Hand back allotments demands Rye Council

RYE is remaining resolute in its fight to win back its allotments from Bexhill based Rother Council.

The long running dispute over who owns Rye’s allotments reached another significant moment this week when Rye Town Council refused a further offer from Rother of a 99 year lease to manage the allotments at Love Lane and South Undercliff.

The council turned down the lease on the grounds that it is already the legal owner of the allotment land.

And questions were asked again as to why Rother was so “hell bent” on retaining ownership of the allotments rather than simply giving them back to the town.

The lease comes with a condition that the allotments can not be used for any other purpose during the 99 years.

But allotment holders fear that this could be overturned with a compulsory purchase order should, for example, the two schools in Love Lane need to expand.

Cllr Mary Smith said: “Why does Rother District Council not wish to simply return the freehold of the allotments to Rye so they can be managed by allotment owners at no expense to the public, thus saving everyone a great deal of money?”

Rye, Rother councillor Lord Ampthill said: “A Government Ombudsman has already ruled that Rother has made a very fair offer with a 99 year lease for a peppercorn rent.”

Cllr Sam Souster said: “A lot of Rye’s assets went to Rother when Rye Borough Council came to an end in 1974. Rye was taken to the cleaners and we ended up with nothing.

“The newly formed Rye Town Council had no-one to give them proper advice at at that time.

“The fact that Rother seem hell bent on hanging on to those allotments does not make any sense at all to me. They should be more flexible.”

It was also pointed out at Monday’s meeting that Rother had already sold off one of Rye’s allotments, at Ropewalk, in the past.

Cllr Jonathan Breeds said: “We hear from Rother all the time that this issue should not be contentious. If they feel it is not that important maybe they should just hand the allotments back.”

Cllr John Breeds said: “We know why they won’t give them back as they are valuing it as building land and not allotments and that is entirely wrong.”

Cllr Nigel Jennings said: “We have a waiting list for allotments in Rye. Why isn’t a sliver of the land Rother own, next to the Love Lane allotments, being released for extra allotment space?”

Love Lane resident John Howlett said: “Part of the allotment land was already stolen to accommodate the new primary school, which is already now overcrowded.”

Cllr Adam Smith said: “We should reject Rother’s offer as they have not proved ownership and accepting it could be seen as an illegal transfer of land. Something we want to be no part of.”

Cllr Mary Smith said: “If we accept the lease then we accept Rother owns those allotments – and we don’t.”

Prior to the meeting Rye Allotments Society had urged the council to reject the lease offer.

Secretary Royston Godwin said: “The Association has further information on the ownership of the allotments, of public interest, which it hope to release later this summer.”