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Ron Simpson: Uppingham Task Group brings fresh thinking to town

High Street East, Uppingham. File picture.'Photo: MSMP240214-025ow EMN-140224-175209001
High Street East, Uppingham. File picture.'Photo: MSMP240214-025ow EMN-140224-175209001

Last week saw the inaugural meeting of a new Uppingham Task Group.

A Town Centre and Business Zone Plan (TCBZP) is being created which will complement the recently completed Neighbourhood Plan. This new strategy document will concentrate on the economic development and sustainability needs of the town’s four business zones, including the central shopping area.

Once again, key groups in the town have been brought together by community partnership Uppingham First to work in harmony and plan for the future. This time the emphasis is very much on business with 75 per cent of the Task Group being drawn from local employers. The objective is to produce a detailed and costed action plan to help create growth and employment in the business zones for the period up to 2026. Significantly the plan will incorporate the concept of a virtual Uppingham High Street, intended to welcome future visitors online.

The Uppingham Plan is set to challenge the traditional planning ‘edge of town’ and ‘town centre’ divide. Early thinking in the group suggests that Uppingham’s economic interest is best served by creating a geographically integrated strategy for sustainability which will establish links between its four business zones and encourage mutual support and shared development. Early priorities for action are likely to be those projects and initiatives which have the potential to generate shared profitability while enhancing the town’s manufacturing, retail and services offer. All this must be achieved while protecting the town’s heritage and ensuring it remains a desirable place to live, work and play.

Work has begun on the statistical evidence required to complete such a plan with a year-long survey of parking data already under way and retailers attending this month’s Business Forum agreeing to take the lead on completing a detailed visitor survey. A residents’ survey is planned for later in the year.

The Digital Uppingham initiative is just one stream of work that will inform and support the plan with the Uppingham mast project set to enhance the availability of better mobile signals, provide affordable wireless broadband over a ten mile range and be the first step in establishing a wireless health care system for the housebound and elderly. The Uppingham webcam is to be further developed as the town’s virtual portal with online visitors able to download and access an Uppingham App. Upon visiting the town, visitors will be guided by Bluetooth enabled alerts to local attractions and retail offers. Hyperlinks on images in the Virtual High Street will facilitate online trading and visitor support.

The plan is likely to contain fresh thinking about the Market Place and High Street and the present lack of a strategy for its long term sustainability. An artist’s impression of an updated business and community orientated town centre founded on local ideas will be created to sound out public opinion and financial viability.

The plan will extend the content of the Neighbourhood Plan and explore retail diversity, restoration and modernisation, transport links, town centre security and resilience. It will examine in detail how the town’s four commercial zones might develop in harmony with a view to producing a costed and achievable action plan to ensure future success. Access for the disadvantaged, the night time economy, and the need to increase financial services provision will be explored. Energy conservation and the environment are also likely to be addressed.

The overriding objective of the Uppingham Town Centre and Business Zone Plan is clear. While not limited in it vision, the UTCBZP will concentrate on achievable goals within an agreed time frame stating what, how, when and where action should be taken to enhance and sustain the commercial vibrancy of the economic heart of Uppingham. Lookout for a lot of interesting ideas being generated for public debate. The Task group will report regularly to the town’s elected forums and the Town Council.

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