Friday, 2 September 2011

Localism Bill Ushers in Neighbourhood Plans

Churches ought to be aware of the new Localism Bill which is currently working its way through the House of Lords and will become law before the end of the year. One of the most important features of the bill is the provision made to allow communities to come together to develop a Neighbourhood Plan which will set some parameters for development in their area. The plan will have to meet certain criteria in order to do this. It would be worth all PCCs (parochial church councils - the 'governing body' of each church) finding out whether such a move is afoot in their neightbourhood and making sure that they are part of it. It might be that, in some places, it would be appropriate for the PCC to take the lead in setting up such a process or campaigning to get one going. 

The idea of Neighbourhood Plans is that they ensure that local communities are able to take an active part in developing their own area in the light of the concerns and priorities of residents. The needs and aspirations of the local community will be key drivers - for example planning for new housing, relevant types of housing, 'joined up' transport services, conservation and ecological issues, bridal and cycle ways and footpaths, development of community space and policies regarding the kind of development allowed in the area can all become part of the Plan. Communities who have Neighbourhood Plans will have some access to funding such as the New Homes Bouns and the Community Infrastructure Levy and this will help to finance local activity. To quote the Newsletter of Rural Action Yorkshire, 'Used positively, the neighbourhood planning  process could give you significant leverage to ensure local authority co-operation in your neighbourhood's prefered development priorities. Rural Action Yorkshire is working in co-operation with the Prince's Foundation and other bodies to make sure that rural communities in Yorkshire are able to access the new government-funded support for neighbourhood planning.'

All sounds a bit dry? Or maybe you are sceptical? On the other hand, it could be just the opportunity your community needs to get something done, to reverse a trend or to bring people together to find mutually beneficial ways forward. It's too early to know how the bill will work in practice and whether it will deliver even part of what it claims, but churches should be aware of what is being proposed and should, I would suggest, be contributing in places where communities decide to create Neighbourhood plans.

For more information go to

and click on 'Community-led Planning'.    

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