Neighbourhood plans get eleventh-hour cash

The government has moved to plug a funding gap for neighbourhood planning groups after grant money intended to provide support between 2013 to 2015 ran out in September.

Neighbourhoods: funding gap plugged
Neighbourhoods: funding gap plugged

Last year the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced a two-year support programme that included grant provision to contribute to the costs of groups preparing a neighbourhood plan or order.

However, the DCLG confirmed in a statement that the funding of £4.2 million had been fully allocated by September "due to the popularity of the programme".

The DCLG also announced last week that it would provide a further £1 million for neighbourhood planning group grants for the rest of this financial year. It added that £12 million would be made available to councils to support communities' neighbourhood plan preparation.

It said the basic level of funding per neighbourhood planning area is £30,000, comprising a £5,000 payment after designation as a neighbourhood area, £5,000 when the final pre-examination version of the neighbourhood plan is issued, and £20,000 on successful completion of the examination.

Neighbourhood planning consultant Tony Burton said the funding would provide some certainty, but is "by no means the route to ensuring that the local authority properly engages with neighbourhood planning".

He said several "neighbourhood planning groups find it very difficult to get anything sensible out of their council. For others it's worked well."

Tom Kimber, principal planning officer in Westminster City Council's city planning delivery unit, welcomed the cash. He said the council would have "possibly struggled to be able to provide the support we do without that funding".

But he added: "The funding is loaded towards the later stages of neighbourhood planning. I would estimate that this £20,000 would get swallowed up at examination stage."

Meanwhile, consultant Stephen Tapper, vice-president emeritus of the Planning Officers Society, said if councils had a few neighbourhood plans being developed, the collective funding available may let it employ a staff member to provide the required support or to backfill staff time.

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