Better times ahead for Oakham town centre

THE fortunes of Oakham town centre “hopefully turned a corner” this week.

Empty shop fronts in High Street have been become an increasing concern for shoppers in the town.

Last week Blockbuster on the corner of High Street and Church Street and clothing store V in Market Place closed.

But in the last seven days potential traders have started to show an interest in the town and what it has to offer.

The Fat Face casual clothing company has applied to Rutland County Council to open a store in the former Blockbuster building and successful publican Michael Thurlby has applied to convert Lord Nelson’s House, formerly Nick’s Restaurant, in Market Place into a two-floor pub and restaurant.

Mr Thurlby already owns The Jubilee and Smith’s in Bourne, The Crown, The Tobie Norris and The Periwig in Stamford, The White Hart in Ufford and The Exeter Arms in Easton-on-the-Hill. He is also planning to open a brewery in Stamford.

Estate agent Grant Murray, who is letting several commercial properties in High Street, said: “If it had been two to three years ago the shops would have been snapped up within a week.

“We have never had this kind of choice for town centre premises before.

“But they are starting to let now. We have someone interested in the former Flore’s House building in High Street and we have also let a shop near the railway crossing in Melton Road this week. It’s very encouraging.”

Fat Face has applied to partially demolish an existing second floor stud wall to put in a new doorway that will increase stock space and staff facilities upstairs.

Mr Thurlby’s plans for Grade II listed Lord Nelson’s House include reinstating a currently sealed fireplace, new French doors and removing the partitions upstairs that used to form bed and breakfast accommodation.

Peter Jones, who owns Swans Antiques in Mill Street, Oakham, and is a member of Oakham Town Partnership, said: “Both of these moves would be very positive steps.

“We’re very conscious of the lack of eating places in Oakham at the moment and the reopening of a restaurant in the Market Place would be very welcome.

“Fat Face will add to the nice mix of shops on the High Street.”

Mr Murray added: “Lord Nelson’s House is a very good location and Oakham needs more places for entertainment.

“What Mick has done with his premises in Stamford and Bourne works very well so I think he will make a great success of that property.”

To view the planning applications online visit www.rutland.gov.uk or visit the Rutland County Council offices in Catmos Street, Oakham.