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Through my work at the Community Development Foundation (CDF), and my personal experience of setting up and running many community organisations and a large social enterprise, I know how powerful it can be when people come together with a vision of improving where they live.

I also know that local people care deeply about matters which affect them and have the skills to make a difference but unfortunately, they often feel powerless to do so.

However, the Government’s Neighbourhood Planning programme, which was launched in May, goes some way to helping people who want to shape their local area and create lasting change. The programme offers grants and support to residents drawing up neighbourhood plans so they can decide the future of their community, such as choosing where new homes, shops and offices are built and what these developments should look like.

I’m proud that CDF is involved in this innovative programme, working in partnership with a range of others organisations, led by our friends at Locality. We have been excited by the level of interest – you can never be quite sure what this will be – as in less than six months 263 grants have been approved by Locality, totalling £1,516,064 and of these, 222 groups have been paid by CDF, totalling £1,150,095. This really is a great example of how partnership working can expand networks and reach the key players in local communities.

Here at CDF we are already hearing how some of the groups’ plans are going and it’s great to be able to share with you the great progress being made. The examples below highlight that the responses and methods used in each area vary as much as the communities themselves.

The Steering Group at Newick Parish Council in Lewes, East Sussex was awarded £2,497 and held a public consultation day in June, which attracted almost 300 local residents. This is a really great achievement. The day informed the Steering Group’s draft neighbourhood plan, which is based on real community engagement by the people who live there. And in August, the Steering Group sent out a questionnaire to local residents and had a fantastic response rate of 41%, with almost all (95%) of returned questionnaires showing support for the Parish Council’s sustainability objectives.

Similarly, Woodcote Parish Council in Oxfordshire completed a consultation process with the local community. The £4,700 grant enabled them to assess the responses and complete a final plan, which has been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council. After a further consultation period the plan will be examined by an independent inspector before the final stage, which is the village referendum. This really is local democracy in action.

A group taking a slightly different approach is the Old Market Community Association in Bristol. The Neighbourhood Forum was awarded £4,800 and wanted neutral assistance in drafting up their plan and so they used some funding from the programme to employ a consultant to draft their Neighbourhood Development Plan. The group are putting the final touches to the draft plan ahead of the public consultation period.

At CDF we know a little encouragement (and funding) can make a huge difference. We know local people are at the centre of change and we love helping to unlock local potential so that they can engage in their local community and be proud of where they live.

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