“Planning” reports today (9th November 2011) that a Department for Communities and Local Government official speaking at the Action for Market Towns symposium in London said that ministers “were certainly thinking of considering the option” of providing funds for preparing neighbourhood plans direct to local communities, rather than routing these through higher tier councils.
If the government is serious in what it says its intentions are regarding meaningful involvement of local communities in the plan-making process, it is essential that funds can be made available direct to those communities. Without this several undesirable outcomes can be expected – for example:
- Wealthier communities will be able to plan to get the developments they want and push away the developments they’d rather someone else had, whilst poorer communities who can’t afford a plan will just have to take whatever is thrown at them;
- higher tier councils will decide which communities get their own plans and which don’t (or, at least they’ll decide the priorities through the allocation of funds);
- less wealthy communities may be over-dependent on assistance from developers and landowners to fund plans which will, understandably tend to reflect their own development aspirations.
The only serious questions about this announcement must be “why has it only been made at this late stage?” and “has it been accounted for in the Localism Bill’s Impact Assessment?” (if it has, I haven’t yet been able to find where).