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Neighbourhood Planning – 2014 Review

Posted on 18 December 2014

George Moore, from the Decentralisation and Neighbourhood Planning Team at the Department for Communities and Local Government, reviews 2014’s highlights.

2014 was a fantastic year for the growth of the neighbourhood planning movement. This time last year, just six neighbourhood plans had passed referendum and only four of them had been “made”. By comparison, there have now been 43 successful neighbourhood planning referendums, and with 8 more planned for the first two months of 2015, the half-century of successful plans is fast approaching.

Over 54,000 people have now voted in neighbourhood planning referendums to have their say in the future of their local areas, and over 5.2 million people (10% of the population) live in the 1,274 areas that have applied for designation as a neighbourhood area.

But numbers tell us only a part of the story in 2014. What is most important is how the power of neighbourhood planning has actually been harnessed by communities. For instance, this October, the residents of Winsford, which has a population of 31,008, voted in favour of a neighbourhood plan that allocated sites for more than 3,300 new homes.

In Exeter St James, on the back of a successful neighbourhood plan, the forum established a community trust that allows it to deliver special projects in the area. Already they have taken ownership of a piece of unused land and are turning it into a new community park. Future projects include the development of sustainable homes and providing allotments.

Felpham’s neighbourhood plan protects eight areas of local green space in the Sussex seaside village. The spaces have been identified for their environmental, recreational or historic value to the community, and no development will be permitted on them except in very special circumstances.

Others have used their neighbourhood plans to protect and support their town centres. Woburn Sands has policies to preserve the economic viability of the High Street for instance, whilst Heathfield Park included policies to improve public spaces in the area, preserve historic and heritage assets and help design-out crime.

These are just some of the many innovative ways in which the power of neighbourhood planning has been seized by communities. DCLG aims to support all communities in their efforts to do the same, and that’s why this year we announced a new £22.5 million support package, a suite of tools and templates and new regulatory reforms. Together, these will work to make neighbourhood planning cheaper, simpler and quicker, and more accessible to all. To help spread this message, we have made available £100,000 for groups to hold mobilisation workshops that will help inspire the next neighbourhood planners.

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