Decades of tradition could end this year after Oakham Town Council voted to reject the Cottesmore Hunt’s annual request to meet at Cutts Close on Boxing Day.
The hunt has met in the park the day after Christmas for many years. But at a meeting on Wednesday (November 25), councillors rejected the hunt’s request to use Cutts Close for the traditional meeting. Coun Martin Brookes filmed the discussion, which can be see in the video below.
At the meeting Coun Joyce Lucas said the hunt left too much mess and should meet somewhere else. Coun Brookes argued that Cutts Close should not be used by groups such as the hunt which were politically sensitive, and that too much alcohol was consumed at the meet.
But the decision was not unanimous, with some councillors arguing in favour of the hunt. At the vote, two councillors were in favour of the meet and seven were against.
After the meeting, mayor of Oakham Alf Dewis said: “The council realises that the Boxing Day meet is a spectacle that brings hundreds of people into the town and we certainly do not want to stop it. Alternative locations have been suggested such as the Market Place and Burley Road Car Park, which are metalled areas and easier to clean, but neither site is under the control of Oakham Town Council.
“The meet in Uppingham is held in the Market Place and not in the children’s play area and park on Tods Piece. Unfortunately, the request from the hunt arrived at a late stage which makes finding an alternative location more difficult to secure in the time available.
“I have been in touch with the hunt and offered to do whatever I can to help but there are no plans to revisit the decision unless some additional information comes to light that we have not already considered”.
Deputy mayor Adam Lowe was one of those who spoke in support of the hunt. He said: “I am making this a formal request and I am asking that the councillors on this council bring this item back for consideration at the December meeting.
“The reason for this is I have already received text messages from people asking how do we get the hunt meet back.
“I also believe that we are facing another public Facebook campaign and we should listen very carefully to the people we represent, otherwise why are we town councillors? The decision last night, in my opinion, did not represent the people of Oakham or Rutland.
“Bring it back in December. If then there is a public voice it will be present, if not then fine.
“I know that once a decision is reached the councillors should abide by it, I should agree agree with this, however I have witnessed so much hypocrisy recently and my strongest believe is that the town council got it wrong, and I am going to stand up and say so on this matter.”
The hunt raises money for charity at the Boxing Day meet. Last year more than £1,000 was handed over to For Rutland In Rutland.
A post on the hunt’s Facebook page yesterday (November 26) said: “The Joint-Masters are currently considering their response to this wholly unexpected development. Watch this space (and Twitter and the Cottesmore’s website) for further information.”
A petition calling for people to support the Cutts Close meet already has more than 1,700 signatures just a day after going live at www.gopetition.com.
What do you think? Should the hunt be allowed to meet at Cutts Close or not? Let us know below or e-mail the newsdesk.