The Council

Welcome to Rye Town Council. The purpose of this site is to provide you with information about the Council, its members, structure and function.

Historically –

The Antient Town of Rye lies between Hastings and Folkestone on the East Sussex coast. Once virtually surrounded by the sea, it is now bordered by three rivers – The Rother, The Tillingham and The Brede. Rye is a town steeped in history which, to this day, retains a strong sense of identity and community.

As a result of its location, Rye has an illustrious maritime history. Even today, much of Rye’s civic and ceremonial process is governed by its membership of the historic Confederation of the Cinque Ports. A Royal Charter in 1155 established five ports, ‘The Cinque Ports’, to maintain ships ready for the Crown in case of need. In return the towns received certain privileges. In the 12th Century Rye and Winchelsea were added as the two ‘Antient Towns’. The Confederation grew again in the 15th Century with the addition of ‘Corporate Limbs’. The Speakership of the Cinque Ports passes annually to each of the five Head Ports and two Antient Towns. This means that even now, every seven years, the Mayor of Rye also holds the position of Speaker of the Cinque Ports.

Rye Town Council was created following local government reorganisation in 1972-74, when most of the numerous and diverse functions and assets of Rye Borough Council were transferred to the newly-created (Bexhill-based) Rother District Council. Rye Borough Council – known formerly as Rye Corporation – had been one of the smallest boroughs in the country and exercised considerable powers. It provided a wide range of services and, in addition to the Town Hall, owned all the town’s open spaces and allotments, spacious office accommodation, a works depot and a substantial housing stock.

Rye Town Council today –

Although Rye is largely urban in appearance, as a small market town on the edge of the High Weald (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Romney Marsh, it is considered to be a rural parish. In law, Rye Town Council is actually a Parish Council.

The Parish of Rye consists of just one electoral ward. Around 3,000 Local Government Electors (out of a population of approximately 4,250) elect 16 town councillors every four years. Vacancies occurring between these elections are filled by by-election or co-option.

The work of the Council is overseen and directed by a number of committees and working groups. Decisions of the Council are implemented by its ‘proper officer’, the Town Clerk.

Since the local government reorganisation, Rye Town Council has slowly fought to regain control over some of the town’s amenities and open spaces. This is a process that is gently accelerating as the financial pressures on Rother District Council increase. Since the acquisition of the Freda Gardham Playing Fields in 1983, the Council has embarked on the painstaking task of rebuilding its ‘services portfolio’. It continues working to regain control over more of these services and facilities, and hopes this devolution will continue to benefit residents and those who work in the parish, as well as the many visitors to Rye. Rye Town Council has embraced the broader powers granted by the ‘General Power of Competence’, introduced under the Localism Act 2011. This enables the Council to work more innovatively and to accept further devolution offered by Rother District Council. Looking to the future, Rye Town Council will continue to work for the social, economic and environmental well-being of the Antient Town of Rye.


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