Neighbourhood Watch: Government eases rules for councils' neighbourhood planning grants in light of Covid-19

The government has introduced changes to the rules for councils applying for grants to support their neighbourhood planning work in the 2020/21 financial year to take account of the impact of Covid-19, including allowing authorities to make claims at earlier points in the process.

Neighbourhood planning: Government grants for councils' duties remain unchanged
Neighbourhood planning: Government grants for councils' duties remain unchanged

In a letter to local authorities this week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) interim chief planner Dr Michael Bingham said the department was "announcing arrangements for funding local planning authorities for the financial year beginning April 2020".

This would "support the vital role of local authorities in the neighbourhood planning process", he added.

The letter goes on to say that in "normal circumstances", local authorities would only be eligible to enter claims for neighbourhood planning support relating to activity undertaken in the current 2020/21 financial year only.

However, the MHCLG "will allow claims relating to 2019/20 activity if these could not be submitted due to the Covid-19 emergency", it says.

In addition, the department this financial year will "enable local planning authorities to receive financial support at an earlier point in the neighbourhood planning process while referendums are postponed until 6 May 2021 due to the Covid-19 emergency".

In previous years, councils could claim for neighbourhood plans, neighbourhood development orders (NDOs) and community right to build orders (CRtBOs) once a referendum date has been set. But this year, they can instead claim once they issue a decision statement "detailing their intention to send the plan to referendum".

The MHCLG will also "provide support for those authorities where scheduled referendums were cancelled at short notice" due to Covid-19, the letter states.

It invites authorities "to claim for wasted costs" in relation to organising referendums that were scheduled to be held between 19 March and 31 May 2020 and subsequently cancelled.

The amounts eligible to be claimed are unchanged from 2019/20, which were themselves unchanged from 2020/21.

Local authorities can claim £20,000 for neighbourhood plans, where the plan has not previously been made for that area, and the same amount for neighbourhood development orders and community right to build orders.

A further £10,000 can be claimed by authorities for a business neighbourhood plan, when the intention to hold a referendum is confirmed by the council, as well as £5,000 for each of the first five neighbourhood areas and the first five neighbourhood forums designated.

The limit of five areas or forums includes claims made in previous years and also applies to the re-designation of areas and forums.

Funding is also available for modifications to made neighbourhood plans. Claims of £20,000 can be made for changes requiring examination and a new referendum while £10,000 can be claimed in relation to modifications requiring examination but no referendum.

An additional £10,000 is available for changes requiring examination and a new referendum in business areas.

Local authorities will have three opportunities to submit claims for neighbourhood planning funding: in late July-August, in October, and in March 2020.

In January this year, ex-housing and planning minister Esther McVey announced £1.9 million for English councils to help communities prepare neighbourhood plans.

PLAN UPDATES

EXAMINATION NEWS

Cheshire: An examination report on the Eaton neighbourhood development plan in Cheshire East was published on 10 June 2020. The examiner found that the plan could proceed to a referendum.

Bedfordshire: An examination report on the Bromham neighbourhood development plan in Bedford borough was published on 5 June 2020. The examiner found that the plan could proceed to a referendum.

CONSULTATION NEWS

Gloucestershire: Kemble and Ewen Parish Council has submitted its draft neighbourhood plan to Cotswold District Council, which is publicising the document for a consultation between 15 June and 10 August 2020.


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