Responding to concerns

Rutland county councillor Tony Mathias
Rutland county councillor Tony Mathias
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The leader of Rutland County Council has addressed concerns about a new one-way system in Oakham after a raft of letters to the Mercury.

Last week we published two pages of letters and this week, we have a further four pages (92-95), after it was revealed the council had opted to go for a one-way system.

The council put forward two proposals for the town’s High Street in June and following a consultation, 53 per cent of those who responded (or 501 people) selected a one-way system between New Street and Mill Street with wider pavements, trees, more public seating and a revised parking layout.

But since the council announced three weeks ago it was pursuing this, we have been inundated with letters criticising the council for the way it conducted the consultation exercise and asking whether the number of replies to the consultation - a total of 952 - justifies taking the plan forward.

This week council leader Tony Mathias (Con) said “investment was much needed” to help the town thrive.

He said the council had a responsibility to meet the challenges posed by how people shop and use town centres and the competitions with nearby towns like Stamford.

He said: “The vision for Oakham is that, being the county town in one of England’s most beautiful and historic counties, we deserve to have a unique, attractive and vibrant town centre; A historic town for the future.

“Improving the public realm is the key to attracting more visitors and developing a thriving daytime and night time economy. We will invest in creating a high quality, distinctive and inspiring place we can all be proud of.”

Coun Mathias said Oakham Town Council, Oakham Town Partnership, RCC Oakham Ward Members and the choices of doing nothing or full pedestrianisation were discounted, leaving two options to put to public consultation. “

He said Oakham Neighbourhood Planning Group had also consulted on the future of the town centre and received 1,592 responses to its own questionnaire.

Coun Mathias said the public consultation included three days of events, information on social media and in local press, information sent to businesses and a poster campaign and reiterated it showed a “clear majority” was in favour of option A. He said the neighbourhood plan added “weight” to the proposal although the number of respondents to the plan was not factored into the council’s own separate consultation.

He said a separate petition was also considered but argued it was “overtly leading” in that it did not give petitioners the chance to support an alternative option and was “one-sided” with many signatories anonymous.

Coun Mathias said: “I am perfectly content that the town centre consultation was well promoted, run properly and effectively, and that the cabinet decision which followed was fair. At the cabinet meeting two non-cabinet RCC Oakham councillors spoke and were broadly in favour of the proposed option.”

He said it was “right” that those in disagreement would want to air their views but urged them to look at the full cabinet report.

He went onto say the cost would “not impact” local services or council tax.

His response can be read in full on page 95.

Editor’s note: This letter has not been subbed to give Coun Mathias a right of reply and readers the chance to see the whole reply.