On most Sundays I like to stroll around my home town, especially the area South of the River Eye, as this is where I have lived with my family for some four decades and as a mature resident rapidly approaching my eighth decade, I feel the need to speak out occasionally about what is happening in my neighbourhood, especially in these days of so-called austerity. As we all – or hopefully, most of us – pay our local taxes for the good and honest governance of our town to a ruling Council which is selected by popular vote, we are also oft-informed of the need to eliminate uneccesary expense by the axing of local services under the guise of that dreaded word, ‘Austerity‘ – i.e. ‘difficult economic conditions, created by Government measures to reduce public expenditure.’ There are many ongoing and debilitating situations arising all around us from the effects of this unpopular ‘dictat’ from on high, of which the results of some I fear will possibly remain irreparable.
A short stroll of about a circular mile with my wife recently was to take us past three on-going building sites, each one visible from our house and all seemingly ready to complete by the end of the year. Three virgin plots of once green and pleasant land have, with the stroke of an architects pencil and a few passes of the bulldozers, created the loss of precious breathing spaces of land to the rear of Ankle Hill; at the entrance to Craven Court and almost hideously, over the gently sloping acres of the former Wyndham Estate bordering the River Eye. This historic and pretty package of land is now dotted randomly with a hotch-potch of red Lego-like houses scattered randomly around the still noble hunting box known to most people today as the once widely loved and now deserted War Memorial Hospital. The once neat little stable block which abuts Ankle Hill has metamorphisised into a three storey attempt to ape Victorian architecture and over 70 new homes in all are envisaged. But of course this is not wholly a result of austerity, rather a ‘nimby’ driven and continuing failure of the local Council to provide the requisite yearly allocation of new dwellings imposed on them by Central Government. It is nimbyism because of the reluctance of those people having bought up properties on previously virgin land, maintain a defiant opposition to the provision of further new developments which might be built on the unspoiled land in front of them: but perhaps this argument is for another day.
Walk on to the metal footbridge – the ‘folly’ which runs adjacent to the Burton Road railway bridge of circa 1899, which was built with a view to the safe passage of pedestrians, especially the large numbers of school children who once were obliged to navigate the narrow footpath which today still verges the now extremely busy highway. Practical, safe, yes, but what an awful eyesore in design which is constantly not improved upon with the presence of stinking detritus almost ever clogging the edges from a lack of sweeping, combined with a desperately sad coat of faded paint which I would suggest is its original and only coat (Austerity?) This is not to mention some very offensive graffiti on the kindly provided side panels. Reach halfway across this Meccano like span and one is directly above over the dawdling River Eye, once maintained scrupulously by the Water Boards before the riparian responsiblities were handed over to the Environment department of the Council, it is now grossly neglected and silted high in many stretches. (Austerity?) Self-seeded weed trees, currently block the view of the water below, which once meandered peacefully around the recreational part of the town and even in my time, it was possible to take a small boat along its whole length. I am assured that the Environment people do attend, but if so, it is on very rare occasions. Along with the Scalford Brook on the other side of town which in places is silted up to provide only a foot wide trickle, the neglected waterways of Melton are not only a disgrace, but I might suggest that these minor outlets remaining un-organised and not properly utilised as a conduit to assist with heavy rains, that notwithstanding the new ‘lake’ at Brentingby, we still risk expensive flood events after a heavy downpour.
Carrying on into the town centre and passing over the railway line with its town station below, the vista of Melton Mowbray fully opens up and right ion our forward vision appears our splendid new Council Offices, now more than five years old and maturing into the area as if there never was an eyesore of wasteland and rotting debris waiting and wasting there for several decades prior. As one against many hundreds of other local residents, I confess to being a supporter of the contentious decision which was made amongst much rancour and heated debate during the time of its gestation and of the building which duly arrived. How one can prefer the ghastly scrub land and derelict neglect which once sprawled out in its place to the present scenario I find hard to follow, and for those who wished for a Victorian lookalike building, or something ‘more befitting and old market town’ as a limited admirer I wonder what they might have envisaged. I must remind them that this is the 21st century and that we have all been Elizabethans for over half a century now.
(revisited May 2019)