Hundreds march in protest of council’s plan for Oakham one-way system

OK2WAY supporters march to Rutland Couty Council offices to hand in petition. Photo: Lee Hellwing
OK2WAY supporters march to Rutland Couty Council offices to hand in petition. Photo: Lee Hellwing

Hundreds of people marched through Oakham on Thursday (December 14)to protest about a proposed one-way-system for the town.

Rutland County Council is pushing ahead with plans for a one-way system for Oakham High Street and Mill Street, following a public consultation earlier this year. The council asked for opinions on the regeneration of the town centre, in which they put forward two options. Of the 952 people who took part, 53 per cent backed the one-way system.

Campaign group OK2WAY and its supporters have criticised the council for the way it conducted the consultation and have raised several concerns about the one-way-system, including that ‘could drive trade away from businesses’ and ‘cause traffic congestion’.

OK2WAY led the march from the Market Place to the county council’s offices in the town, where they handed in a petition, which received around 3,000 signatures and is calling for a referendum on whether Oakham should get the system.

Gerry Robinson, who came up with the idea for the petition, said at the march he was delighted to see how many people turned out.

“This says exactly what the people want - it is obvious the majority of people are not behind the one-way scheme at all,” Mr Robinson said.

“I remember celebrating when we got to 1,000 signatures on the petition. I couldn’t believe it when we got to 2,000 and now we have kicked up to 3,000. These are local residents that are unhappy.”

In its consultation, the county council put forward two schemes for the public to view and vote on, which included one for the one-way system, with wider pavements, trees, a revised parking layout with loading bays for shops and more public seating.

Option B kept the current two-way flow on the High Street with an enhanced pedestrian environment and road space to calm traffic and give greater priority to pedestrians.

The council decided to go-ahead with the one-way plan following the consultation which included three days of events, information on social media, information sent to businesses and a poster campaign. It has spent the last few weeks consulting on the design of the scheme.

But OK2WAY, chairman, Tim Norton, who handed the in the petition with Mr Robinson, said the consultation had not been publicised well enough and is demanding the council think again about the plans.

He said: “The scheme seems to have discussed outside the public domain and a number of councillors have put if forward as a done deal. This is not true. It has to go before the full council to be agreed.”

Mr Norton, who also owns of Tim Norton Motor Services in Oakham, added: “We are going to do all we can to get it overturned.”

Many protesters vented their anger about the proposed scheme at the march.

Oakham resident Janet Berridge said that instead of investing in a one-way system, the council should “think again and repair the pavements and roads”.

She added that traders in Oakham High Street experienced a loss in trade earlier this when a one-way-system was introduced due to roadworks - which she says proves the council’s plans will have an impact on businesses.

Coun Richard Gale (Ind) who represents the Rutland County Council Oakham North West Ward was at the march.

He said: “A number of people, mainly elderly people are worried about their safety particularly on the one-way-system route.

“A number of people believe the one-way-system is going to slow traffic down.”

Following the petition handover, a spokesman for Rutland County Council said: “The council welcomes petitions as an important way that people can let us know their views and opinions.

“Having received the petition regarding current proposals for Oakham Town Centre, this will now be formally reviewed and considered in line with the requirements of our petitions guidance.

“Only after this process is complete can we give an indication of how the petition will proceed.”