Well it’s mid June and DLUHC still has not announced the promised renewal of the Neighbourhood Planning Support Programme, despite calls being made to local councils by Locality saying the extension of the programme into 2023/24 would be in place by the end of May. The scheme closed for grant applications in January this year.
As a result many town and parish councils have now run out of funds and are having to pause their projects, whilst others that are keen to start work are held back. Planning Consultants that support NDPs are beginning to perceive such activity as an unreliable source of work and turning their attention to other fee streams. If the delay in launching the Programme continues there may as a result be a lack of professional support available to assist NDP groups trying to cram 12 months work into the reduced grant spending window, which taking into account grant application processes might be as little as six to eight months.
Neighbourhood planning support staff resources in local planning authorities is now at an all time low, and it’s hard to envisage that they will be able to find the cash to run their own NDP grant schemes.
Planning Resource magazine reported last week that the Alliance of Independent Neighbourhood Planning Consultants, an informal network of 25 professional planning consultancies and sole traders in England, said that the delay to funding meant the future of neighbourhood planning “hangs in the balance”.
Yet all this comes at a time when DLUHC is proposing to strengthen neighbourhood planning in the Levelling Up Bill and in revisions to the NPPF.
This needs sorting out NOW.