Community Led Planning

Your chance to shape the future of your community

What is community led planning?

Community led planning (CLP) is a process that gives local communities a greater say over what happens in their area.  Parish plans and the more recently introduced neighbourhood plans are types of community led plan.  A parish plan sets out a long-term vision for communities and identifies the key issues that need addressing.  A neighbourhood plan gives residents a say on where new houses, shops, businesses and community facilities should be built and what they should look like.

Neighbourhood Plan or Parish Plan?

We have extensive experience of advising on both parish plans and neighbourhood plans, and we’ll help you to decide what type of plan you need.  We’ll meet your parish council or community group, free of charge, to explain the differences, pros and cons of each process to help you decide which plan might be right for you.

For the latest news on Neighbourhood Planning , please click here


Our experience and networks

Cheshire Community Action (CCA) has been supporting rural communities for more than 80 years.  We’ve helped deliver over 70 parish plans across Cheshire and are actively involved with a number of neighbourhood plans.  Our team includes experienced chartered town planners with skills in community engagement.

We are part of a network of 38 Rural Community Councils (RCCs) in England with experience of supporting around 70 neighbourhood plans nationally and nearly 4000 parish plans.  We have close relationships with several local authorities to help embed community led plans into their decision-making processes.. We also have links with the Royal Town Planning Institute and Planning Aid.

What support can we provide?

Whether you choose a neighbourhood plan or a parish plan, we offer a wide range of practical support to help you through every stage of the process.

Getting started

Making sure that organisational structures are in place at the beginning is key to the success of a community led plan.  We can help you: set up a steering group; host your first public meeting; prepare a project plan;  prepare a budget; and advise on funding sources.

Evidence gathering

CLP involves extensive consultation with the community and a thorough understanding of the local area.

"The ongoing support from the two CLP officers has been invaluable throughout, and has probably been more important that the grant funding." Christleton Parish Plan Group 

We can help by:

  • Advising on how to engage with your community, using a variety of methods;
  • Directly assisting with workshops, presentations and public events;
  • Analysing data;
  • Providing a socio-economic profile report specific to your community containing the latest 2011 Census data and other Government sources of information, exclusive to our network.
  • Report writing
  • We will act as a “critical friend” on draft reports, whether it is a draft parish plan or in the case of neighbourhood plan, the draft plan, consultation statement or evidence report.
  • Toolkit
  • We can provide you with an extensive toolkit of guidance documents and case studies based on the experience of our network.

Want to find out more?

We can come along to your next Parish or Town Council / community group meeting free of charge, to discuss your options and give you a quote for support.

"The staff at Cheshire Community Action were extremely helpful when setting up the plan. A great deal of useful advice was offered and received." Sandbach Town Plan Group

The video below is from Dentdale in Cumbria and outlines why the community chose to produce a parish plan.

Case Studies

A number of case studies can be seen under "Related Downloads" to the left of this page. 

Parish Plans

What is a Parish Plan?

Parish Planning (or Community Led Planning) is a step-by-step process that can help your community take action to make your local area a better place to live.  The process involves surveying the views of the people who live and work in your community to establish how they wish things to develop in the future.  A parish plan document (containing a detailed action plan) is then devised based on the community’s views, which identifies what steps are needed to achieve this vision.  Four thousand communities across the country have already produced parish plan documents since the late 1970s, including over sixty plans across Cheshire.

Why produce one?

Producing a Parish Plan will bring about a wide range of benefits for your community, including:

  • Enhancing community spirit;
  • Unleashing hidden talents;
  • Re-energising Parish Councils;
  • Giving people new skills and knowledgey
  • Providing valuable information;
  • Helping to attract funding;
  • Forming new partnerships;
  • Achieving tangible outcomes such as new community shops, play areas, village websites, recycling centres, new village halls, youth facilities etc.

Who produces it?

Plans are owned, managed and led by your community. This is different from other consultation exercises where the community might be asked for their views on a specific programme or project perhaps by a local authority or other organisation.  Parish planning provides your community with the opportunity to set its own agenda and bring about positive change without relying on others to get things done.  At the outset, a Parish Plan Steering Group of local volunteers is set up to drive the project forward, usually in collaboration with the Town or Parish Council, the Local Authority and a wide range of other agencies and partners.

How is it produced?

There are four key stages involved in the parish planning process as defined by our national umbrella organisation, Action for Communities in Rural England (ACRE).  On average it takes about 18 months to work through these stages to the point of delivering and monitoring actions.  These stages are:

1) Launch the plan

  • Getting started
  • Establishing the steering group
  • Taking stock and planning ahead

2) Evidence local need and aspirations    

  • Understanding your community

3) Agree and prioritise actions

  • Prioritising and planning action
  • Drafting your plan
  • Finalising your plan

4) Deliver and monitor actions

  • Implementing and monitoring actions
  • Reviewing your plan               

Who can help you?

Cheshire Community Action can provide constructive and practical guidance, advice and support during the parish planning process.

Help with Parish Plans

Who can help you with your Parish Plan?

Cheshire Community Action can provide constructive and practical guidance, advice and support during the parish planning process.  We provide different levels of service in different parts of Cheshire so please contact us in the first instance to find out what we can offer.  As a minimum level of service, we will come to visit you to explain to process in more detail and give you some helpful literature.  Our full service includes supporting you at meetings, providing our full range of written guidance (our toolkit) and offering ongoing support by telephone and email.

We can also help you to apply for funding, monitor the progress of your plan and work with you to implement the actions you have identified.  For further information, help or advice please contact Claire Jones or Sarah Baron via the contact page or visit the ACRE website here. We are also able to provide communities with a detailed demographic report at a local area level which highlights key issues of deprivation, the economy and services in rural areas.

Parish Plan Toolkit

CCA has developed comprehensive guidance to help you deliver a successful and effective Parish Plan including:

Introduction to Parish Plans - available as a download - see left

Guide 1 – Launching the Plan which guides you on:  

Getting Started
Setting up your Steering Group
Taking Stock and Planning Ahead

Guide 2 – Evidencing the Plan which guides you on:

Understanding your Community
Example Community Engagement Methods
Developing your Questionnaire

Guide 3 – Agreeing and Prioritising Actions which guides you on:

Prioritising and Planning Action
Writing your Plan

Guide 4 – Delivering and Monitoring Actions which guides you on:

Finalising and Publishing the Plan
Implementing the Plan
Monitoring the Plan
Renewing the Plan

Community Profile or OCSI Report which gives you extensive data specifically for your community from Census 2011 and many other government sources and collated into graphs and diagrams

Funding Guide which gives you advice on best practice when applying for grant funding for community projects and activities

Neighbourhood Plans

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

The Localism Act which became law in April 2012 introduced a number of Community Rights with the aim of giving people and groups a greater say over what happens in their areas and to shape their neighbourhood’s futures. One of the new rights allows communities to produce a neighbourhood plan (the legal term is a Neighbourhood Development Plan).  Neighbourhood plans set out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or neighbourhood area.  The Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012 set out the legal requirements for neighbourhood plans and other community rights.

Neighbourhood plans are statutory planning documents which means that they must be take account of in planning decisions.  There is no legal requirement to produce a neighbourhood plan but communities might find it beneficial to plan their local area and to decide where and what type of development should happen.

Why produce one?

A neighbourhood plan can:

  • Give local people greater ownership of the planning policies in their area.
  • Allow a community to set out where development should take place, and the type and quality of that development.
  • Bring the community together to share ideas and build consensus about the needs and priorities for the area.
  • Help create lasting partnerships to take forward actions that may arise from the process.

Who produces it?

A Neighbourhood plan can only be prepared by a ‘qualifying body’ which is the Parish or Town Council or a ‘neighbourhood forum’ in those areas without parishes.   A neighbourhood forum must be approved by the local planning authority.

How is it produced?

There are five broad stages to preparing a neighbourhood plan:

1. Designation of a neighbourhood area
The parish council or neighbourhood forum must apply to the local planning authority to designate a neighbourhood area.

2. Preparing the plan
The neighbourhood plan regulations require public consultation on the draft neighbourhood plan and submission of a consultation statement to the local planning authority.  This means the plan must be based on thorough consultation with the community and be supported with a clear evidence base.
In practice there are many ways of consulting with the local community.  A good starting point is to use any previous consultation work, for example a parish plan, as a basis for further investigation of issues that are important to the area.  Various methods of engagement can be used to identify local issues, for example workshops, presentations, drop in sessions, on-line questionnaires.  Once issues are understood then a draft vision and objectives report can be drawn up and consulted on, leading on to further rounds of consultation on development options and policies before the draft plan is prepared.
Other evidence that will typically be required to support the draft plan are a Sustainability Appraisal and a statistical profile of the area.  Sustainability appraisal is a process that identifies and reports on the likely environmental, social and economic impacts of the plan.
Once the draft neighbourhood plan is submitted to the local planning authority, there is a further period of statutory consultation.  The authority will also check that the plan is compliant with legislation, including national planning policy and its Local Plan.

3. Independent Examination
The local planning authority will appoint an independent examiner who will consider whether the plan meets ‘basic conditions’, including compliance with national policy, the local plan, EU obligations and the neighbourhood plan regulations.  The Examiner must recommend either that the draft plan proceeds to referendum, that it should proceed to referendum subject to certain amendments or that it should be refused.

4. Referendum
The local authority organises the referendum which is open to any individual registered to vote in the neighbourhood area.  If the majority of those who vote, vote in favour, then the neighbourhood plan will become a planning policy document within the local authority’s local plan.

5. The plan comes into force
The neighbourhood plan will be used in the determination of planning applications.

Who can help you?

Cheshire Community Action can provide practical guidance on community engagement aspects of the neighbourhood planning process. We also provide detailed socio-economic reports at parish level that can contribute to the evidence base. We provide different levels of service in different parts of Cheshire so please contact us in the first instance to find out what we can offer.

Neighbourhood Plan Toolkit

CCA has comprehensive guidance to help you deliver a successful and effective Neighbourhood Plan.

The Introductory Guide to Neighbourhood Plans can be seen under Relevant Downlaods, on the left of this page.

For further information, help or advice please contact Lucy Jones or Richard Thresh via the contact page.

Cheshire West & Chester Council has information on its website.

Free advice and guidance can be found from a number of sources currently funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government:

The Royal Town Planning Institute
Planning Aid
Locality has produced a step-by-step guide to preparing a neighbourhood plan

Parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums can apply for grants of up to £7,000 or direct support through the Department of Communities and Local Government’s ‘Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning programme’:-