A report to Cheshire East Council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, to be considered at a meeting next week, recommends the closure of its local Neighbourhood Planning Grant Scheme, citing a reduction in government financial support for neighbourhood planning as the reason behind the recommendation.
The report says that in April this year the government reduced funding to councils in respect of neighbourhood planning by 30 per cent, from £30,000 to £20,000 per plan.
"This reduced funding means the council can no longer provide direct support for neighbourhood planning and provide the grant scheme without incurring additional cost to the base budget of the council," the report says.
The report says that the council intends to continue to provide direct officer support to help communities prepare neighbourhood plans "for at least the next 12 months".
But it says that the continued operation of the grant scheme leaves the council "exposed to further additional costs of potentially up to £114,000".
So far, the uptake of grants has been low, the report says. To date, only three communities have applied for funding, with £16,638 applied for and £8,500 awarded.
The report says that the low uptake of grants is "likely, in large part, due to the investment the council has made in direct officer support".
But it adds that 38 groups are currently preparing plans, and "on the basis of providing £3,000 per group … this exposure could reasonably be expected to be in the order of an additional £114,000".
One outstanding application should be dealt with under the existing policy for the grant scheme, the report recommends.
But it adds: "The reduction in government funding to support neighbourhood planning means that outside of this application, it is necessary to close the grant scheme to new applications."
It says that it is "important to communicate" the closure of the grant scheme effectively and ensure that communities are made aware that continued support from the council will remain in place.