One of the most significant initiatives for Planning Aid England during the 2010s was involvement in the “Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning” (SCNP) programme. Running between 2013-15, this was a £9.5m support programme provided by the then Department for Communities and Local Government for groups undertaking neighbourhood planning (town and parish councils, neighbourhood forums and emerging neighbourhood forums preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan or Neighbourhood Development Order in England). It aimed to foster the growth of neighbourhood planning across the country after the enabling legislation - the Localism Act, 2011 - was enacted.
The programme was delivered by Locality in partnership with RTPI/Planning Aid England and partners, and comprised two main parts: grant payments to contribute to costs incurred by the group preparing a neighbourhood plan or order, and direct support in the form of advice and guidance tailored to meet the needs of supported neighbourhoods. PAE’s role was to provide direct technical support to groups through a set of regional planning advisors, together with a variety of online advice and guidance. PAE supported some 274 plans to come forward during the SCNP programme. Although a majority were in rural areas, we did have a proportion in deprived urban areas (e.g. Fishwick – Preston; Lawrence Weston – Bristol; Spring Boroughs – Northampton; Kentish Town - inner London).
Below, Fred Parsons, from the Neighbourhood Plan steering group for Horton and Wraysbury (two villages located between Windsor and London), explains how PAE staff and volunteers supported their group during the Plan’s preparation:
“The group then met with PAE who guided them through the process. In an initial meeting, it was explained how PAE would work with the Steering Group to help in constructing the Plan, including advice on its scope, community engagement and policy writing.
Planning Aid England’s involvement also encouraged the Steering Group to prepare a Character Appraisal for the plan area, especially as it was of a leafy green nature and had Victorian connections. This appraisal was prepared with the help of professional planners, acting as volunteers for Planning Aid England and was a useful and important appendix to the Neighbourhood Plan itself.
PAE then helped the group through the pre-submission consultation and finally to referendum and are pleased to say it was voted through with a large majority and is now part of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s Local Plan.”