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Rutland columnist Allan Grey on house-building in Oakham and the noise of Cutts Close concerts

There are a few recurring themes that run through my columns, writes Rutland columnist Allan Grey.

You may just have noticed: blonde-haired Range Rover drivers, inconsiderate pavement parking, the infestation of potholes and the east west railway divide.

You can now add to that list the complete lack of influence, the disaffect and the frustration Joe Public feels when it comes to local matters. Normally I would steer clear of anything mildly controversial, but hey, let’s change the habit of a lifetime.

Last week I was walking home from town, one of several routes I take to get from our uber cool metropolis to the top end of Hellway, aka the Braunston Road. This particular day I chose to perambulate the Brooke Gridlock and, guess what? True to form – gridlock. To amuse myself for five minutes while 375 containers trundled over the level crossing at 2mph, and before I passed the pristine new entrance to yet another ill-conceived housing development, I took a few photographs and posted them on one of the local social media pages using some estate agent vernacular, “new housing development, handy for town and ideal if you love trainspotting”.

Cars queuing at Oakham level crossing. Photo: Allan Grey
Cars queuing at Oakham level crossing. Photo: Allan Grey

The responses were immediate, and within a few days more than 100 comments, unsurprisingly with very few even mildly supportive of this development. The vast majority bewildered that seemingly non-sensical developments like this are approved, asking how these decisions get made, and by whom.

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There is no doubt that very few members of the public, me included, understand the arcane nature of planning laws, how they are applied and how the influence of the developers is brought to bear to get planning permission granted. Needless to say, we have yet another development that will further blight one of the two already challenging approaches into Oakham from the west.

As I searched the internet to see what consultation might have taken place before permission was granted I came across an extensive, carefully crafted letter with many sensible recommendations from a member of the public to Rutland County Council.

'Brooke Gridlock'
'Brooke Gridlock'

The letter asked why sufficient due diligence had not been applied with regard to traffic flow along Brooke Road before planning permission had been granted.

As there had been little or no response received back in 2023, the author of this letter had recently sent it on to Oakham Town Council, doubling down on the concerns expressed regarding road safety relating to this development; I can only assume this will not have been the only response Rutland County Council had received.

On a completely different matter I also found the following paragraph in the outer reaches of cyber space, “The Code of Practice determines that for venues where four to 12 events are proposed in a calendar year, the music noise should not exceed the background noise level by more than 15dbA over a 15-minute period at one metre from the façade of any noise-sensitive premises for events held between 9am and 11pm”.

Allan Grey
Allan Grey

You might need to read that paragraph a few times to fully absorb the message. I certainly did. This was from a letter sent by Peterborough City Council to Oakham Town Council following a couple of complaints from members of the public regarding noise from the very popular summer Sunday afternoon concerts at the bandstand in Cutts Close.

Compare and contrast the two situations, in the first case any number of reservations from members of the public, exemplified by the aforementioned letter regarding road safety and increased congestion, and there’s little or no response from the authorities. In the second case a couple of noise complaints and a dozen or so summer concerts are under threat immediately.

The common factor in both cases is the complete disregard of the majority, who in both cases will suffer the consequences. Increasing traffic congestion on the Brooke Gridlock with another 40 houses and constantly increasing rail traffic, plus the likely loss of the summer concerts that would otherwise have soothed the frayed nerves of local residents having had to navigate Hellway and Brooke Gridlock at least the day before to get to the concert on time.

And to top it all, just when you thought you were living in one of the coolest places on the planet, as noted by The Times supplement recently, out pops another meaningless survey, this time by a property finding company by the name of Garrington. In this survey, Oakham finds itself in the bottom half of a table of over 1,400 towns, in 940th place to be precise, based on the following criteria: natural environment, wellbeing, heritage and culture, schools, employment and connectivity, and house price quality. What a load of tosh! We can’t possibly be any lower than 500th.

However, I wouldn’t worry too much. A town in Wales called Kidwelly was ranked 171st in 2020 only to find itself in fifth place in 2021 and, rumour has it, the meteoric rise was due to nonsensical planning applications finally being filed under ‘you’re having a laugh’.

OK, rant over. Time to think positively. Time to prepare for our annual three weeks of vitamin D immersion on the large lump of lava labelled Lanzarote. With the Lovely Lady’s current mobility challenges, we have had to plan very carefully, and I can only commend Jet2 and the assistance they are ready to provide from the moment you set foot into East Midlands airport to the moment you set foot outside the arrival terminal in Arrecife, all free of any extra charge. Way to go, Jet2!

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