MORE than 30 councillors and officers from all over the country saw Chippenham sparkling in the sunshine this week when they paid a two-day visit to the town.
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The delegates from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) were the guests of Chippenham Town Council, which invited the association’s committee and members for a fact-finding best practice tour.
The Larger Council Study Tour usually only involves the NALC leadership committee but, said chairman Cllr Sue Baxter, this was the first time members had been invited as well.
“This is an important day for the town,” said chief executive Mark Smith. “They are here to see all of the facilities we provide for the town and hear how we’ve developed them. It’s a great opportunity to show them off.”
The guests stayed at The Angel Hotel and were met there by Mr Smith, town council leader Cllr Sandie Webb and Mayor Cllr Andy Phillips.
He welcomed the guests to the town, saying: “We’re very proud of our town and we hope you enjoy your stay with us.”
The delegates were taken on a tour of the town, beginning with a look around the town hall and the Neeld Community and Arts Centre.
Its manager Julie Hook and deputy chief executive Adrian Jones explained how the hall’s retractable seating can be put into place within 30 minutes.
The visitors left the Neeld for a tour of Chippenham Museum and the nearby Yelde Hall. Museum curator Melissa Barnett. She explained the refurbishment of the museum’s entrance and the history of the Yelde Hall and its many uses over the years.
Royal Sutton Coldfield councillor Clare Horrocks said: “The attention to detail here is absolutely phenomenal. Everything has been so meticulously planned out and it flows really well. It’s a fantastic facility.”
From there the visitors boarded a coach and were taken to the London Road cemetery where they were shown around the expanded burial site and looked around the chapel.
After that there was just a short ride to Stanley Park Sports Ground, where facilities manager Pete Hussey explained the growth of the site since it was developed by the council in 2002 and opened in 2004. He told guests the number of teams using it as their home base had grown from 20 to 102. “In 2004/05 we had 325 matches and training sessions here. Between 2011 and 2017 that grew to just over 20,000 training sessions and matches,” he said.
The final stop on the tour was at John Coles Park, where the delegates enjoyed an ice cream from the park kiosk before admiring the £100,000 splash pad and the beautifully-kept gardens.
Cllr Baxter said: “We’ve had a wonderful trip to Chippenham. The park here is superb and I’ve enjoyed seeing the splash pad.
“Chippenham’s heritage, and the beautiful buildings and the way that the council has capitalised on those buildings is impressive. The way they use the buildings is very worthwhile.”
The town council hosted the NALC delegates at a dinner at The Angel on Monday evening and on Tuesday they took part in a NALC committee meeting at the town hall before departing.
Mr Smith said he was delighted with the way the visit had gone. “It’s been fantastic. We’ve had absolutely brilliant feedback from the delegates.
“I think we’ve certainly met our objective, the sun is shining, there are lots of happy delegates, lots of smiles and just an unbelievable large amount of compliments about how we do things in Chippenham.”
Cllr Sandie Webb, Leader of Chippenham Town Council said of the event: “It has been a wonderful two days which has enabled us to showcase the services and facilities provided by Chippenham Town Council to our national peers. We have exchanged ideas on best practice and plans for future development. We would like to thank NALC for their work in arranging this study tour and choosing to come to Chippenham.”
NALC committee chairman Cllr Kevin Wilson MBE said it had been an enjoyable visit.
“We are very impressed with the facilities provided by the town council. There is no doubt that Chippenham Town Council is an excellent council delivering for the residents of Chippenham and pioneering the potential role of local councils,” he said.
“This is a leading council who can be proud of their achievements. The next steps will of course be challenging as the town council take on an increased responsibility but the Council is in a good shape to take this on in partnership with the local community, residents and businesses.
“Chippenham itself is a lovely town and it is clear it has a bright future under the brilliant stewardship of the members and officers of the town council.”