We asked for the valuation of Rye’s allotments lands annually and recently got the following, as at 31 October 2012, from Rother District Council:
Love Lane allotments area £22,000
Love Lane “frontage” £100,000
Rope Walk allotments £20,000
“Land at” Gibbets Marsh £90,000
Mill Salts £12,000
South Undercliff allotments £21,000
Without telling Rye, Rother rented the Rope Walk Allotments site, dating from April 1898, to the scouts the lease being for 25 years from 2011 at a rent is £175 per year, reviewable every five years.
* The Love Lane “frontage” is the area between Love Lane and the chain link security fence in front of the allotments: two applications to build houses on this site have been rejected, and we have now been told that half of it is leased to Rye College.
* The Love Lane allotments are south of the chain link fence and cultivated.
* Rye Town Council tried to buy the freehold of the Mill Salts but RDC would not sell.
* South Undercliff allotments are exactly that; the plots on the Victorian “Factory Marsh” site. In its Policy RY3, Rother had the land allocated for houses. We are being vigilant over future plans: RY3 has not gone away.
Gibbets Marsh is an interesting case. Like Mill Salts, it is recorded in Rye Borough Council’s minutes book as being scheduled for allotments from February 1925 when a building application was refused, and the site designated for 54 plots. From 1939, along with Mill Salts, Gibbets Marsh was the subject of wartime control of food-producing land regulations, but remained as rough grazing, still being used as such on 31 March 1976 and after. No charge was made for parking there until 1986, because it was rough grazing used by local people for parking: then Rother put tarmac down on some of it, and started charging. This is how Rother District Council now describes asset C001: “Gibbets Marsh comprises a large “pay and display” public car park with a tarmac surface and an area of public amenity space laid to grass which also (sic) used for overflow parking at peak times. It is located on the edge of the town centre and is less well used than other car parks within the town. There are no marked parking bays but there is space for about 100 cars”. The adjoining property is described as “Residential”.
All this sounds like Rother-speak for “A brown field site within an existing residential area, currently used as a car park but surplus to requirements”. However, we have the evidence that both Mill Salts and Gibbetts Marsh are legally protected allotments land. We shall be investigating how the latter turned into a car park, every penny of the revenue raised, of course, going to Rother.
But why is Rye Town Council not doing this? Why is this sort of thing left to an unelected body? The answer is that after 2009, when Rother refused the demand from Rye’s lawyers to hand control of the allotments back, the fight was taken up by the Allotments Association, on behalf of the Allotments Authority – Rye Town Council. Every one of the sixteen councillors is a member of the Authority, and three councillors belong to the Association. So the people who bravely put forward their names for co-option to the council recently were actually standing for something rather more legally complex than a parish council. Our message to the unsuccessful candidates is that you were all pretty good, so don’t give up.