There has been much discussion in Council with regard to the implementation of a Neighbourhood Plan for Rye.
The recent changes in planning policy, through the Localism Bill and the National Policy Framework, have resulted in calls from many parts of the community to have a Neighbourhood Plan. This was particularly evident from the vocal support at the Annual Town Meeting in March. Rye Town Council therefore initiated a meeting with Rother District Council to explore the options open to RTC and the current thoughts of RDC officers on the emerging new planning framework.
The meeting was useful as a first step to a positive way forward to meet the aspirations of the people of Rye, but much depends on further discussions to take place over the next few months. Meanwhile, RTC has agreed to set up a working group to discuss the possibility of Rye undertaking a Neighbourhood Plan.
Perhaps this is the breakthrough Rye needs with all the problems that beset it at the moment with derelict buildings and sites demanding sympathetic development for our town.
There is no doubt that the changes envisaged by the National Policy Framework recently published by this government does represent the biggest changes to the planning system since it was set up by the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, and effectively changes it from an instrument to protect the countryside into an instrument to foster economic growth.
There will still be a presumption in favour of “sustainable development”- ensuring the planning system makes it easier to build new homes, offices and factories. This is why it is so important to have a Neighbourhood Plan in place as provided for communities under the Localism Act.
Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been developed and adopted by RDC, the policies it contains will take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in the Local Plan/Core Strategy, and it can give greater protection to conservation areas like Rye through supplementary guidance on the design and location of future developments. Also it can encompass public areas such as footpaths, highways, cycle paths and parking to which public bodies will have to give due regard.
The letter in last week’s “Rye Observer” from one of its readers made the point succinctly when referring to the disgusting pubic toilets opposite the station. This lady said how disgusted she thought the toilets were, which appeared long-neglected, and smelt of urine. Anybody who has used these toilets would of course heartily agree with her comments.
However it appears no amount of complaints to Rother District Council officers seems to change anything. Indeed in the latest round of communications between the Town Council and Rother we are told the Contract Compliance Officer typically monitors the toilets in Rye three times a week.
They have a duty to report defects and cleanliness and an assessment is made against contract standards as set out in the Specification document. This consists of a long list of specific tasks the cleaning staff are obliged to undertake to satisfy the Contract Compliance Officer.
The cleaner in Rye is on “a roving brief” we are told and is required that work is completed before moving to the next site. Whilst the cleaner may fufill his tasks when he arrives it seems the frequency of his visits may be very variable which in toilets which are heavily used, especially on market days, his visits are not frequent enough. However, it seems nothing can be done to eradicate the awful smell which awaits those who enter them.
It is thought that this might indicate a problem with the drains, but as far as is it is known this has not been investigated. One councillor thought the only solution was to knock the buildings down and start again. Perhaps eventually that will happen but unlikely in the near future. It seems strange that a building that is not that old could deteriorate in such a short time. Something is wrong somewhere.
Rye’s tourist web site is back in the news and it appears there is no immediate solution in sight. It seems that whilst Rother District Council are quite happy for the Rye Bay Marketing Group to manage the web site it insists on retaining ownership of the domain name for the web site, despite apparent assurances to the contrary. Surely, as with the allotments saga, this is an issue which is at the heart of much in Rye where Rother insists on clinging on to its assets, many of which should rightly be under Rye’s ownership.
The Council in Bexhill seeks to allow Rye to manage services on its behalf, but ownership surely has to be part of any deal. This umbilical chord has to be severed. Until there is a proper structure in the district, as could evolve through the creation of area committees, the continual wrangling and discussion through working groups will continue, but with no agreed solutions.