Emma Reynolds – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Communities and Local Government

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Emma Reynolds on 2015-01-15.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, how many bids there have been to the fund to assist community groups with the Community Right to Build; how many such bids were successful; and how much has been allocated from that fund.

Stephen Williams

A key priority for the Coalition Government has been to give communities greater control over shaping the development of their area. The Localism Act 2011 created new powers for communities to write their own neighbourhood plans and to gain planning permission for community-led development through Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.

Nearly 1,400 communities, covering six million people, are now engaged at different stages of the neighbourhood planning process, giving millions of people the chance to participate in identifying, and voting on, where development takes place and what it looks like. All 52 referendums held to date have resulted in big ‘yes’ votes and 34 plans have been ‘made’ (brought into force) and therefore are part of the development plan, the starting point for determining planning applications.

The popularity of neighbourhood planning has shown that when given the opportunity, communities are keen to shape future development in their areas, and we expect the number of community-led developments to increase as more neighbourhood plans are finalised. Over the last two years there have been over 3,100 enquiries and 14,000 web hits relating to the Community Right to Build. The Community Right to Build gives communities the freedom to build new homes, shops, businesses or facilities where they want them, without going through the normal planning application process. Experience has shown that following discussions with the local planning authority for community-led development proposals, community groups have chosen to submit a planning application for their project, rather than a Community Right to Build Order.

To ensure groups undertaking community-led development have the right support and advice to gain planning approval, we broadened the remit of available support funding to assist community groups to bring forward development either through Community Right to Build Orders or community-led planning applications.

This has led to significant take up of funding for community-led projects coming forward, with over 100 applications for funding already approved by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority. Locality and their partners have also been working with 60 groups to provide assistance and advice.

The first three referendums for Community Right to Build Orders took place in December, all of which were passed and are now in force.

We have allocated a further £3.5 million to support the Community Right to Build and community-led planning applications for housing in 2015-18. On 17 February, my department announced a further £6 million funding boost to the community rights programme. This new funding will mean:

  • like-minded communities will be able to network and learn from each other through the new My Community Network;
  • communities will have access to tailored advice through a phone and online advice service to help them use the range of community rights and other neighbourhood approaches;
  • 100 more neighbourhoods will be supported to use the Our Place approach, enabling councils and other public sector providers, voluntary and community groups, local businesses and the community to work together to tackle important local issues from job creation to health priorities;
  • 100 communities will receive support to take the first steps in identifying important local issues and develop Community Action Plans;
  • 50 communities will receive support to develop economic plans to address local economic priorities like job creation and enterprise;
  • 50 local authority/community partnerships will receive advice, support and grants to support the transfer of multiple or complex publicly owned assets into community ownership; and
  • 6 new contracts have been awarded to external partners to support communities in using the community rights in 2015-16.