Top tips: identifying how best to use grant money

Posted on 26 July 2017 (Permalink)

There are two types of help available to help groups complete their neighbourhood plan: Grants and Technical Support.

All groups are eligible to apply for total grant funding of up to £9,000 over the three-year programme (2015-18). Groups facing a range of complex issues are able to apply for further Technical Support from the programme.

This criteria will help you identify whether you group is considered complex.

Applications for technical support can be submitted until 31st March 2018. Applications for grant for 2017-18 can be submitted until 31 January 2018. Expenditure through a grant must be completed within six months or before 31 March 2018, whichever falls soonest. For further details visit the MyCommunity website.

Identifying how best to use grant money

Grant money can be spent in a number of different ways to support the development of your neighbourhood plan. The Neighbourhood Planning Grant and Technical support Guidance Notes provides a useful list of what grant money can be spent on – for example: developing a website, help with putting together a project plan, engaging a planning expert to help you draft policies – as well as what it cannot be spent on.

Before making the decision to buy in skills and support to assist you with the production of your neighbourhood plan, you need to look within your group to see what skills are already available - and remember to think beyond planning skills, for example having someone who can set up a website is very useful!

Understanding the skills that are required for producing a neighbourhood plan can be difficult if you are new to the process. There are a variety of skills needed throughout the making of the plan and this skills mapping resource will help you relate the skills you have in your group to those needed to produce the plan.

Having done this you can then look to fill any gaps from the wider community, before considering paid for services. This will enable you to involve the wider community in plan production and help to keep costs down. 

Once you have identified the areas where further assistance and advice is required, you will then need to research how/where to access this support. There are a number of sources of help, advice and guidance you could draw upon to help fill these gaps including: online advice via MyCommunity who have produced a range of toolkits and guides, other neighbourhood planning groups (ask your local planning authority for details of designared neighbourhood plan areas), and the Neighbourhood Planning Champions Network whose role is to provide peer-to-peer advice - contact MyCommunity to find out more about your local neighbourhood planning champion.

Consultants can be a good way of making progress or to secure skills that are missing, but there will be a cost.  It is good practice to discuss this with your local planning authority as they maybe able to offer advice and assistance. Costs will vary so shop around. Be very clear about the budget and expected outputs before appointing.  A recognised source for finding a Chartered planning consultant in your area is the RTPI Online Directory of Planning Consultants.