Uppingham Town Council is heralded NALC 'Council of the Week' at a time when it is in the sector spotlight. A Judicial Review of its Neighbourhood Plan is taking place at the Planning Court in London, as housing developer Larkfeet is challenging its policies and proposals, despite the Plan having received a 92% YES vote.NALC would like to draw attention to the Neighbourhood Plan and the governance of the town as an example of best practice. Planning Inspector Nigel McGurk says,
"The Uppingham Neighbourhood Plan is written in an interesting way, it is exciting, innovative and contains ground breaking policy for neighbourhood planning. The Plan is the successful result of a major, sustained local business and community effort. It contains some exemplary approaches to neighbourhood planning."
Uppingham is interesting in that it has both an elected Town Council and an elected Neighbourhood Forum. It also has an elected Business Forum. It is impressive how all three work together with the County Council in a business-led community partnership, which is called Uppingham First.
With such a structure, Uppingham provides an exemplary model for community representation – further supported by its Town Partnership created by the County Council.
The Neighbourhood Plan was prepared by a Task Group that worked extraordinarily well, with all major decisions being arrived at by consensus and regular reports being put before the Town Council. At every stage of the Plan's preparation, community opinion was sought via open meetings of the town's elected neighbourhood and business forums and the council's planning committee. Helpfully for other parishes, Uppingham has published online all its drafts, the final Plan and a Databook of supporting evidence online – as well as distributing copies to every household.
The Plan provides significant improvements for the town – with housing land allocated beyond 2026, double the allocation of land for new employment and improved communications via broadband and 4G signal, as well as setsting out a design and access statement calling for lower housing density, protected green space, housing in clusters, homeworker capability and empathy of housing design with the town's environment.
Many lessons have been learnt over the two years that it took to prepare the plan, providing helpful guidance for other councils.
The Uppingham Neighbourhood Plan demonstrates that the planning process can bring people and organisations together, that joint working can strengthen relationships between parishes and principal authorities and that as a result, community respect for the town council's achievements are greatly increased.