The Cottesmore Hunt has been denied permission to hold its traditional Boxing Day meet in an Oakham park.
Oakham Town Council made the decision at a planning and parks committee meeting on Wednesday (25 November).
The decision was not unanimous — two councillors voted to keep the meet, with conditions, but the remaining seven present at the meeting voted against.
The conditions were that the hunt clean up and repair any damage to Cutts Close and that it does not serve alcohol in the park.
Hunt secretary Clare Bell told H&H that they are meeting with town councillors to try and find a way forward.
“Yesterday was quite a traumatic day because it was such a shock to have an age old tradition declined,” she said.
“We are trying to work our way through it — there is a huge feeling that it should be allowed there.”
She added that as well as the mounted followers, between 700 and 1,000 people attend on foot each year.
“For some it is the only time they see hounds,” she said.
A petition calling for the council to reverse its decision was started yesterday (26 November) and has so far received more than 1,900 signatures.
Mrs Bell added that the reaction against the council’s decision “speaks volumes” for the popularity of the hunt in Rutland.
“People have been very supportive and it is lovely to see,” she said.
At Cutts Close, the general public can stand safely out of the way of the horses on mounds in the park.
“This is not about foxhunting, this is a tradition that the Cottesmore hunt has,” said meeting chairman Cllr Adam Lowe, who voted to keep the meet, at the opening of the discussion held in Victoria Hall.
“It may be of interest to know that next year is the 300th anniversary for the Cottesmore’s association with the county and they have been meeting in Cutts Close for many years.”
He added he has a photograph of the hunt’s Boxing Day meet in the park from 100 years ago.
Concerns were raised by councillors about the circus also renting the park at the same time, but it was decided that both the hunt and the circus would fit.
Cllr Vincent Howard said that he would like a caveat to say that the hunt repair any damage and clean up any mess.
Cllr Joyce Lucas said that the market place would be a better option as it would be easier for the hunt to clear up the mess.
“I cannot see why we have to have it on grassland,” she said.
She added the issue is not to do with whether she is for or against the hunt, but that she is against where the meet is held.
The weather, lack of public consultation and the political nature of the event were also raised during the discussion, which became heated at times.
Cllr Jasmine Hopkins added: “I agree it is a traditional thing, but there are quite a lot of things that would fall under being traditional that no longer happen such as caning children in schools. The list is endless.”
Speaking to H&H today (27 November), Oakham Town Council chairman Cllr Alf Dewis said the council considered the application in relation to previous years.
He said that the hunt has been allowed to use the park on the understanding that everything is “made good” once they have left.
“Though the hunt may try its hardest to clear up, they cannot totally clear up the dog mess that has been trodden into the mud,” he said.
He added that Cutts Close is increasingly becoming a childrens playground and suggested that the hard standing of Burley Road car park — owned by Rutland County Council — or the market place would be better options.