Government is considering direct funding for neighbourhood plans

Out-Law News | 10 Nov 2011 | 4:54 pm | 1 min. read

The Government is considering bypassing local authorities and providing funding directly to communities to help them develop their neighbourhood plans, a Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) official told a London conference.

Neighbourhood plans allow local communities to draw up their own development plans for the local area and, subject to a local referendum, allow neighbourhoods to specify where they want development to take place. They would be introduced under Localism Bill which is currently waiting for Royal Assent.

The Localism Bill suggests that the Government could pay local neighbourhoods directly to assist with the provision and promotion of a neighbourhood plan. When asked at a conference this week, a Government spokesman said that this was being considered, Planning Resource has reported [registration required].

The Localism Bill states that the Secretary of State may provide financial assistance "for the purpose of promoting the making of" neighbourhood plans, or "for the purpose of assisting anyone to make proposals for such orders or plans".

When asked whether the  Government would be forthcoming in providing support or funding directly to communities, Gareth Bradford of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the Government "were certainly thinking of considering the option of providing funds".

The DCLG initially chose over 100 neighbourhoods to take part in a trial neighbourhood planning frontrunner scheme. Under the scheme, each frontrunner area’s local authority was given £20,000 to support work on neighbourhood planning.

This week a Shropshire neighbourhood planning front runner has announced it is the first front runner to launch a public consultation on its draft "neighbourhood plan".

The consultation will be launched by Much Wenlock Town Council on 22 November and it invites all sectors of the local community to get involved in the creation of the plan.

The Much Wenlock consultation identifies key themes and issues that the consultation will focus on. These include moving towards a sustainable community; agreeing the housing needs of the parish to 2026; re-balancing the local economy and improving local job prospects; protecting the local environment, and improving community services.

The Localism Bill would allow neighbourhoods to draw up a 'neighbourhood development plan' which would be used to establish the general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood.

Under the Bill there would also be provision for neighbourhoods to draw up a 'neighbourhood development order', which could be used to permit certain development, in full or in outline, without the need for planning applications.

The Localism Bill has finished its passage through Parliament and all that remains before it is to come into force is for it to gain Royal Assent, which experts say could happen as early as next week.