Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions are Top Tip

Lynton and Lynmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan’s Community Champions have been highlighted as a top tip in a Government report.

Back in 2011/12 Lynton Town Council asked Julian and colleague James Shorten to come up with a process for developing their Neighbourhood Plan – one of the initial tranche of frontrunners.

Photo of Lynton and Lynmouth Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions

Underpinning our proposals was the principle of community engagement and making sure that the process was led by the community, not the planners.  One of the actions we proposed was to form a team of Neighbourhood Reps (later renamed Community Champions) to be the face of the process and to take the ideas into the community.  The Champions wouldn’t be councillors or people with official positions, instead they’d just be ordinary people with an interest in what the Plan could achieve.  In the end we recruited about 15 people, mostly by word of mouth.  We met with them, ran briefing sessions for them and over time crafted a team of people who became very influential in the overall shape of the plan.  And the great news is, they’ve now been given recognition by the Government.

The first piece of Government funded research into Neighbourhood Planning  “Neighbourhood Planning The rural frontrunners: research and case studies (April 2013)” has just been published and seeks to show what can be achieved, and what approaches could work or be considered elsewhere.  The research reports that most Neighbourhood Plan areas use “traditional methods such as exhibitions, leafleting, meetings, questionnaires, road shows, social media and websites”, but highlights the Lynton and Lynmouth Community Champions as a top tip for ‘spreading the word and encouraging involvement’.

You can find the report on the DEFRA website.  And more about the Lynton and Lynmouth plan at lynplan.org.uk

What Community Radio means to me

After nine years involvement in Community Radio last night at our AGM I stood down as Chair and Director of 10Radio, the community radio station in Wiveliscombe, Somerset that I and a few others dreamed up in 2004.  As a parting shot, I was asked to reflect upon my years in community radio.  In planning what to say I struggled to summarise the amazing programmes we’d broadcast, but then realised that, actually, what community radio meant to me was not about radio, but it was about community.

10Radio has been broadcasting full-time since January 2008, but before that we broadcast two pilots of a month each in 2005 and 2006.  It was those broadcasts, and in particular the first one, that I really remember for the huge and amazing impact we had on this small rural town.

The idea for a radio station had come from an article written about a community station in Withenshaw, Manchester.  At the time I felt inspired by what they had achieved and the incredible medium radio provided for getting people involved and sharing local information.  But it felt like a big city project, and not something that would work in a small isolated community.  For a while the idea lay dormant until I mentioned it a local teacher, Ben Elkins, who immediately saw the potential for his pupils and simply said “lets do it”.  He persuaded his Head to put in some funding and from there we grew the idea, slowly discovering the world of broadcast licences, royalties, transmitters and scheduling.  We launched the concept on an unsuspecting community in early 2005 amidst rumours that there was some big company behind the idea (clearly there wasn’t) and the concerned question “who’s in charge?”.  Our answer to that was “you are”, but it wasn’t the answer expected so it was only gradually that people opened their eyes to the full potential.

Over the coming months we managed to find ex BBC staff who ran training courses, got someone to provide all the equipment, negotiated with the Co-op to rent us an empty shop and gradually set everything up.  The month before our first broadcast was gruelling, coinciding with summer holidays when everyone was away.  But three days before the start we had the keys to the shop and in a barn-raising effort of community volunteers and trades, we built a studio from nothing, finishing off with egg trays from a local farm to provide sound damping in the studio.

We started broadcasting one Sunday morning. Standing outside with a little transistor radio, the magic of the whole enterprise came to life, as we heard our own sounds coming over the airwaves.  And although the music was none of our doing, to hear the first track burst through was a thrill I still remember.  With hastily written posters stuck up in the window we appealed for presenters, for carpets, even for old video cassettes to keep an archive of our broadcast.  And it all came flooding in.  People were amazed at what was happening, and that they could walk in and book a slot to do a show, with training on the job.  It was the talk of the town.  The school rehearsed their show on air.  We found our hearthrob DJ who just walked in one day, sat down and did 6 hours non-stop, wooing the teenage girls with his sultry tones.  Sports shows, chat shows, late night jazz, live musicians, local news, we had it all.

But it was the way we changed lives that was our great achievement.  One person later wrote: “As someone who has been out of full-time work for some years as a result of health problems, 10radio made me realise how much confidence I had lost in moving out of my comfort zones.  I knew that I had no desire to do presenting, but I was shocked to find how anxious I was about even working on reception, and initially I deliberately chose predictably quiet times.  By the end of the 4 weeks I was keen to seek out the busy times, and after being involved in one of the programmes, was even beginning to develop a taste for trying my hand at presenting!”.  Another wrote “(Our son) suffers from mild ADHD which manifests largely through his inability to concentrate or focus on tasks, particularly if they do not engage him.  You can imagine how this affects him at school…  However, 10Radio has been one activity that has fully engaged him, proving that he has the talent and application to do something well when he so wishes.  (When we broadcast our show) he not only took a full part in actually hosting the programme, he also manned the phones and took messages.  His self esteem was immeasurably boosted by the positive responses he received from friends and acquaintances who heard him”.

This was, and continues to be, our great achievement.  We opened up opportunities, we introduced the wizadry of fading out the mic, and fading in the music, we helped people find the joy of hearing their first broadcast sounds on the radio. School children who came on 10Radio in 2005 are now in their mid 20s and some have gone on to do amazing things, hopefully with a little influence from 10Radio. We brought something unique to this community.  We made a difference to lives.  That’s what community radio is about, and that’s what I look back upon with pride and great sense of achievement.

Awards for All gets bigger

Awards for All, the Big Lottery small grants scheme, has announced some important changes.

In the past, groups receiving funding have only be eligible for one grant every two years.  That’s been changed so that groups can receive up to £10,000 every year.

In addition, smaller groups (i.e. those with accounts showing income of less than £30,000 / year) can now apply for funding for repeat and regular activities, as well as new activities.

All good news!

For more details, go to www.awardsforall.org.uk

Cash for Houses

This from DCLG. Not sure if it is desperation, empowerment or what, but it is clear that the move is towards greater benefits for growth areas (especially edge of city) while more remote and undeveloped areas will lose out when it comes to funding “to re-roof a village hall, refurbish a municipal pool or take over a community pub”.

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Communities to receive cash boost for choosing development

10 January 2013

Communities that tackle the legacy of inadequate house-building and choose to accept new housing will benefit directly from generous cash incentives, Planning Minister Nick Boles has announced.

Neighbourhoods that take a proactive approach by drawing up a neighbourhood development plan, and securing the consent of local people in a referendum, will receive 25 percent of the revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy arising from the development that they choose to accept.

This cash boost will be paid directly to parish and town councils and can be used to back the community’s priorities – for example to re-roof a village hall, refurbish a municipal pool or take over a community pub.

Neighbourhoods without a neighbourhood development plan but where the levy is still charged will still receive a capped 15 percent share of the levy revenue arising from development in their area.

Communities without a parish or town council will still benefit from this incentive, with the local planning authority retaining it and spending it in accordance with the wishes of the community.

The Coalition Government believes that communities need to be persuaded that development is in everyone’s interest and that incentives are key to getting the homes built that we both need for today and for future generations.

The Government has also made clear that planning should encourage the effective use of land, including brownfield land that is not of high environmental value. The majority of all new homes – 76 per cent of those completed in 2010 – were built on brownfield land. But this will not be enough and the Government says some undeveloped (aka greenfield – ed) land will need to be made available for house-building.

Nick Boles said: “This Government is determined to persuade (force? – ed) communities to accept more house-building by giving them a tangible share of the benefits it brings.

“By undertaking a neighbourhood plan that makes space for new development, communities can secure revenues to make the community more attractive for everyone.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/communities-to-receive-cash-boost-for-choosing-development

More funding for neighbourhood plans

The government has announced £17m of additional funding over the next two years for neighbourhood planning.

From 2 January 2013 local planning authorities are able to claim up to a maximum of £50,000 (up from £20,000) for up to 10 area designations (applies to 2012/13).

From 1 April 2013 local planning authorities will be able to claim for up to 20 designations (£100,000) in the financial year 2013 to 2014.

In total, local planning authorities can claim up to £30,000 for each neighbourhood plan.  (This is £10,000 more than was received by the first front runners announced in May 2011). The first payment of £5,000 will be made following designation of a neighbourhood area recognising the officer time supporting and advising the community in taking forward a neighbourhood plan. The second payment of £5,000 will be made when the local planning authority publicises the neighbourhood plan prior to examination. The third payment of £20,000 will be made on successful completion of the neighbourhood planning examination.

This money recognises the duties that local authorities have in relation to neighbourhood planning. These are to: provide advice and assistance; to hold an examination; and to make arrangements for a referendum.

Woolavington and Puriton get Big Local Million

The lucky people of Woolavington and Puriton have today heard that they are to receive over £1m from Big Local Trust. Along with 49 other communities in England they will receive the Big Lottery funding of over the next 10 years.  Each community is given a ‘Big Local Rep‘ to work with, and the lucky people of Woolavington and Puriton (near Bridgwater) have me!

Big Local is about bringing together all the local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from individuals, groups and organisations who want to make their area an even better place to live. Residents will identify the issues in their areas that they want to address and work together to put a plan together for how they will do this.

The four programme outcomes for Big Local are:

  1. Communities will be better able to identify local needs and take action in response to them.
  2. People will have increased skills and confidence, so that they continue to identify and respond to needs in the future.
  3. The community will make a difference to the needs it prioritises.
  4. People will feel that their area is an even better place to live.

I’ll be heading over to Woolavington and Puriton later today to start talking.  If you’re from Woolavington or Puriton and want to know more, do get in touch.

Businesses to get a vote on Neighbourhood Plans

The Localism Act 2011 gives local communities a far greater say on planning, enabling them to take a bigger role in shaping their local areas through Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders.

But a little known provision in the Act (Schedule 10 S.15 (3)) also gives businesses a vote in the referendum that will decide whether these plans or orders come into effect.  Business referendums will only happen in areas which are wholly or predominantly commercial in character (as defined by the local council under S.61H), but clearly raise many issues:

  • Will it be one business one vote or will big businesses get more than one vote? It seems to suggest it is one vote per business address.
  • What happens if a town centre plan developed and supported by local businesses gets voted down by local residents?  It doesn’t stop them applying for planning permission in the traditional way, but it sets up a significant tension.
  • What happens if a plan popular with residents is voted down by businesses owned by corporations based far away?  Maybe unlikely given that the corporations will only have one vote each, but you never know!

This is untested water, for businesses have never before been given a vote alongside residents on the electoral role.  But I’m not sure how much work has actually been put into considering how it will function, or how the contradictions are going to be resolved.

Big Local Lottery

Pleased to say that I’ve been appointed as a Big Local Rep.  Big Local is a Lottery funded programme to invest £1m over 10 years in 150 communities in England.  The programme is very much about communities making decisions for themselves about how to spend the money, and the role of the Rep is to support, facilitate and oversee the process.  There are 70 Reps across the country, with other local appointments including Dominic Murphy (of Creating Excellence) and Sophie Cowdell (of Common Places).

Some Big Local areas are already up and running, and I’ve been asked to pick up support for Radstock and Westfield.  Also going to be working on one of the “Wave 3” communities, but sworn to secrecy on which one until after the official announcement on 10 December.