Saturday, 2 December 2017

MUCKY LANE

CIVIC PRIDE
(My pictures have all been electronically stolen by Google!)

I wrote this small article on my blog some time ago now, but I have brought it up to date for the benefit of my local readers specifically, who might well know of where I am talking.  Written a little tongue-in-cheek perhaps, I hope that it fits into the local discussion and is relevant.
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Do you happen to know how many named streets there are in Melton Mowbray? Well officially, at today's date, [2013] there are 699 and I must confess that it is a much larger number than I would have ever dreamt of.  But, hold the front page, I have just discovered that there are now 700 and that that civic milestone was passed recently with the unheralded appearance of a brand new, shiny plate which proudly displays the name, 'Mucky Lane' near to the entrance of our swish new Council Offices at Burton End; Oh how twee - but not quite correct it seems. Locals 'argue' that a lane or pathway has always existed in the area, once running alongside the then Framland House and linking Burton Street with the Play Close; but it was never officially named or at least, known by any particular name.  As an incomer to the town, I would guess that there were at least a dozen pathway given this soubriquet at any one time.

A discourse has recently arisen on my local town's Facebook pages, as to 'where was what and when was it there' and certain facts have born truth along with the usual assertion of locally handed down myths.  Since man discovered the wheel, he has ever used roads to traverse the land on his feet in order get him from place to place.  What originated as mere footpaths enabling progress via the shortest routes between caves, have become today the motorways and multi-lane autoroutes and highways which we know so well and as wheeled transport grew larger and less simple, its numbers increased along with the general population. The footpaths were retained for local use, many of which remain protected and maintained under the law of the land to the present time. The more direct routes which linked the more important inhabited population centres and places of business however, required to be widened and most importantly, to be maintained, as the steel rims of large wooden wheels did much damage to the often fragile surfaces, this especially during the winter months.  With the question of expense now raising its regular head, the turnpike system was brought into being with toll-gates manned by private companies to take fees from the users with which to earn cash for their high-priced upkeep.

The turnpikes - or main roads - were simple to name; as you drove to Grantham, it was the Grantham Road and when you got halfway it became the Melton Road, for those travelling in that direction.  In the same manner, as the population expanded and the infrastructure grew with it, the smaller linking roads and town streets which serviced the towns and cities were given the most obvious names by the people whose houses were built among them, and all of this with no diktat from local parish councils or the like. Names commonly related to the trades of the people living in them, names such as 'Butchers Lane' or "Bread Street" were obvious.  When the time came that the developers began to build not just a house, but acres of houses, the naming of the streets became more important and obviously a challenge as several new roads would appear at one go.  Something I am reluctant to put out in the public arena rather surprised me recently when I came across this piece from Wikipedia:

I give the link only, but watch who is looking over your shoulder!  Now join me, out and about one early Sunday morning.

An unguided tour

Walking around our ancient old town as I am wont to do occasionally, I never fail to be perplexed and oftentimes amused by the plethora of seemingly crass and quite simply, baffling, street names which have been and are still being, allocated to the new highways and by-ways which continue to proliferate upon the former meadows and lanes which once skirted our boundaries.  In the northeast of the town where the old Victorian Framland Isolation Hospital once stood at the top of Scalford Road, we now have the metamorphosed Framland Residential Home, which today 'offers a skilled elderly care service' within its 31 rooms at 'Clark' Drive. Accompanying Darren Clark the still-living golfer, are Torrance Drive; Faldo Drive; Lyle Close and the absolute mother of them all, Laura Davies Close!  What on earth have a bunch of rich, has-been golfers got in common with the market town of Melton Mowbray? When the kids grow up and ask who Laura Davies was, I wonder how many of us will recall that she was in fact, no local hero but a one-time woman golfer and certainly not that she was a local person who had once served the Town so well in some loyal way.  

From the fairways of Framland, travel west and across the Scalford Road to alight in what is colloquially known as 'The Poets Estate', where, en route to Nottingham Road we meander betwixt the choice literary plums of; Dickens; D'arcy; Keats; Shelley; Tennyson and Galsworthy et al. Once again we exclaim, "What the heck has 'Rabbie' Burns got to do with us here," perhaps he once leased  a hunting-box nearby - who the heck knows?  Just beyond the back gardens of the Burns' literary country lie three small tributaries named Russet, Bramley and Laxton; though I don't believe that there were ever any apple orchards there, but again, I might be wrong..

Am I being unfair - is it that I am being mischievous? Well I have purposely ignored other blatant examples from the north side of the town in order to turn my attention to the sixties development of the Leicester Road Estate, once a prime greenfield area but now generally accepted as residential without a combative thought. But who dreamt up the idea that the interlinking roads should be named after many of the rivers of England; what brilliant flash of inspiration from some unknown benefactor who seemingly possessed the powers and the rights to decide these matters made this decision? I won't name the rivers as there are indeed too many, but one river in particular, Redbrook (Crescent), I have so far failed to trace. If one travels into the deep south of Melton Mowbray, over even more of the former agricultural land, we have the ornithological connection with the Robins, Wrens and Woodcocks etc. which I will perhaps concede are quite relevant to most rural areas. Adjacent to our feathered friends and sited on the most recently developed large estate developed in the town, we can recall the moments of our countryside rambles in the vast collection of names relating to wild flora. But I cannot leave this side of town without a mention of the newly named streets which now replace the site of the old Police Station which once stood on the Leicester Road for almost fifty years. Who on earth dreamed up the idea, formulated the required permissions and actually set up street name boards which are named after three of England's most iconic aircraft, the 'V' bombers Valiant, Victor and Vulcan of the cold war years, together with two more used ones from an even earlier era, the Lancaster and the Halifax.  Im not sure that any of these saw actual service at the local airfield, so what is their relevance to us here today.

THE RULES

I needed to uncover what exactly was the legal or formal criteria for the naming of new thoroughfares and to discover what, if any, procedures or measures or degree of interest is applied by our civic protectors of local heritage: The rules of Melton Borough Council state: 

'Street Naming and Numbering is a statutory function. The relevant powers for local authorities are contained in Sections 64 and 65 of the Towns Improvement Clauses Act 1847, and Sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Public Health Act of 1925. This legislation requires the Local Authority to prepare street naming and numbering schemes and to maintain a good standard of street name plates.
It is important that developers apply to the Building Control Department at an early stage for a street numbering and naming scheme.  We will normally ask the developer for suggestions for street names based upon the history and/or locality of the area, providing they are not similar to any street name that already exists in the area these may be put forward for approval to the afore mentioned committee.
Following agreement with the developer to the proposed street naming and numbering, we will notify the relevant authorities and statutory undertakers of the approved scheme and Royal Mail will be asked to allocate postcodes. Royal Mail will not issue a postcode until informed by the local authority that an address has been allocated, an address is not complete without the correct postcode.
When the street name has been agreed a layout plan and a street numbering and naming schedule is prepared which allocates a number and street name to each of the developer’s plot numbers. Purchasers of new properties should be careful when passing on their new address details that they are using the postal number and street name, not the plot number and development name, as the two will not necessarily be the same.
Any request for a new or revised property number or street name must be requested in writing to the Building Control Department. A site plan must be submitted with the request on paper no larger than A3, the plan must indicate the property/properties the request relates too.

New street names should not duplicate a name already in use in the borough or neighbo[u]ring boroughs. Variations to the terminal word (street, road, avenue etc.) will not be accepted as a different name.
New street names should be of local significance and unsuitable names should be avoided.

Street names should not be difficult to pronounce or awkward to spell. In general, words of more than three syllables should be avoided and this includes the use of two words except in special cases.

So basically, what Melton Borough Council does is to ask for the submission of a pro-forma from the developer with his recommendations for names and points out that they have the authority to reject or override any of their suggestions. 


AND WHAT OF OUR NEIGHBOURS?

Now on the other hand, what of our immediate neighbours to the east, the Charnwood Borough Council? Working from the same legislation, they interpret the rules to provide a totally different and I believe, much more sensible policy practice which goes like this:

POLICY FOR THE NAMING OF STREETS ETC – 2003 

(i) This procedure relates to the naming of streets, footpaths, cycleways and parks
(ii) The following be included as consultees during the naming process: Parish and town councils, Parish Meetings, Loughborough and District Civic Trust, Urban Forum,  History and Archaeology Group, local history and natural history groups, the developer and other persons who from time to time may be identified as being appropriate

(iii) After the granting of planning permission, in the case of all sites, the above bodies, as appropriate, be consulted and requested to suggest a name or, as the case may be, a list of names or themes, that accord  with the principles outlined below, for consideration. 
(iv) The principles for the assignment of new names are that they should:
   • not relate to living people
   • not be the same as or similar to other street names in the area 
   • avoid potential mis-spellings
   • relate, wherever possible, to one or more of the following:
    (a) local history/historical associations/historical figures;
    (b) existing local themes in street names;
    (c) local natural history associations;
    (d) local industrial/sporting or twinning themes;
   • avoid the potential to cause offence. 

Is it different? well, just a little! a little  more than chalk and cheese! So what of the cavalier and apparently unthinking attitude of our friendly, seemingly detached or disinterested ruling body in their state of the art new offices at Melton? I'll bet that there were great jollies and local consultation on the christening of 'Mucky Lane', with probably a couple of bottles of champagne on the taxpayer to share with the local press as they announced their coup de gras, notwithstanding the embarrassing fact that they had been informed wrongly of its true position.  What could have been worse when they moved it around the corner to another place where it now remains and is still incorrect.  Muddy Lane was ever known to locals and appears on various maps as the alleyway which leads to the Play Close from Leicester Street and is now known as Park Lane.

So come on Building Control or whoever makes these seismic decisions, get your act together and see if we can't match up with the apparently sensible - and locally sensitive - folk from Charnwood and for the sake of us residents and visitors alike, let us bring an end, once and for all to these dilatory or uncaring practices. I know for sure that there are many living souls around the town who would prefer to remember those characters of a now lengthening list of soon-to-be-forgotten, 'non-living' persons who have at least lived in and more importantly, have contributed something tangible to the Town.

Finally, is someone is going to tell me that the now departed Civic Society or local Historic Society did in fact, approve of these unsuitable street names, or were indeed, consulted on the subject? If that is the case then it is time for my rant to end and for me to get back into to my dark room. 

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