£3 million worth of funding for community organisations to engage with neighbourhood planning

The government has unveiled £3 million worth of funding intended to help community organisations to engage with the reforming planning system. The Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning funding will be made available from 1 April 2011 and will provide 'advice, guidance and assistance' to local community groups in relation to the current planning system, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

A document, available online, describes the grant programme, including the purpose, selection and eligibility criteria. It also provides details on how applications will be dealt with. This prospectus invites applications, by 21 February 2011, from eligible organisations for grant funding under the Department's Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning scheme.

It said this assistance could relate to: organising a community-based group; community engagement; developing or providing input into proposals for local development documents; developing or providing input into proposals for the development of any area, such as proposals leading to planning applications or local development orders; accessing specialist advice if required and finding potential sources of additional funding.

Local authorities in England are invited to apply to become Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards. They will be pioneers for this process and help push the boundaries of what it can achieve. Around a dozen places - a range of rural and urban, prosperous and in need of regeneration - are being sought that will give us the greatest insight into how neighbourhood planning will work in practice.

The Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards scheme has been instigated by the Department for Communities and Local Government in advance of the new statutory provisions for neighbourhood planning being introduced through the Localism Bill. The Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent in late 2011. A key requirement of the Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards scheme is that the development of proposals involves a community group or a parish council. All local planning authorities in England are invited to apply.

The proposals developed through the Neighbourhood Planning Vanguard scheme may vary in their scope and complexity, or in the size of the area covered. The proposals should involve one or more of the following and relate to part of a local planning authority's area:

* a draft development plan document
* a draft local development order under section 61A of the 'Town and Country Planning Act 1990'.

All Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards will be asked to liaise closely with the Department's staff throughout the preparation of any plan or order.

Through the Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards scheme, we hope to follow, as closely as possible, the procedures for neighbourhood planning being established through the Localism Bill. We will therefore expect the local planning authorities participating in this scheme to, as far as practicable:

* work closely with a parish council or community group so as to enable that group or council to prepare a draft plan or order
* provide the parish council/community group with reasonable guidance and technical assistance to facilitate their preparation of a plan or order
* appoint a suitably qualified professional to undertake an independent examination of any proposed order (as they would need to in the case of a development plan document which they believe should proceed to independent examination).

In addition, though not a requirement of funding, we would find it helpful if local planning authorities were to undertake a referendum on the proposed neighbourhood plan or order.

Given that the relevant provisions in the Localism Bill are not yet in force, local planning authorities will need to operate within the restraints of the current system for producing development plan documents and local development orders.

Under this scheme, a grant of up to £20,000 will be made available towards the cost of the plan and orders within each neighbourhood.

Applications will be assessed according to the following criteria

1. Variety in respect of key characteristics - we are looking for a cross-section of authorities in respect of a number of characteristics. Applications will be assessed against the opportunity that they present for the Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards scheme to include plans which differ in respect of:

I. Urban/rural/suburban character

II. Geographical location

III. Types of local planning authority - district council, unitary authority, National Park, Broads Authority

IV. The strength and experience of the parish council/community group

V. Income levels across the community

VI. Size and complexity of the anticipated local development order or development plan document

2. Deliverability and timescale - the process should be ready to be got underway immediately after the grant is confirmed ie the neighbourhood group should be established and the group or parish council ready to proceed, and the local planning authority should have made available the required staff and resources.

Applications should clearly address each of the above criteria. A short covering letter or email should be added, providing the applicant's contact details. Please note that information provided in the application may inform the grant conditions.

Applications should be sent by email in PDF format to [email protected].

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 17.00 hrs on Monday 14 February 2011.

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