The DCLG has issued tender documents inviting bids for its 'Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning Programme 2013-15', which will help provide support to neighbourhoods in the making of Neighbourhood Development Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders.
The programme will replace the DCLG's existing support programme under which it awarded £3.1 million grant agreements to the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, The Building Communities Consortium, The Royal Town Planning Institute and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England to give independent advice to communities.
The DCLG said it is now seeking to "contract with a single body or consortium", however it would "reserve the right to contract with a maximum of two bodies." It said that the change in approach was designed to "support a new system that will incentivise results and reward success to both the successful contractor and the neighbourhoods themselves".
The contracted body will be responsible for providing direct support to neighbourhoods to help them through the stages of creating a neighbourhood plan. It will also be required to develop and administer a scheme under which neighbourhoods can apply for Government grants or vouchers of up to £7,000 per neighbourhood and to produce case studies and make share learning available to the neighbourhoods.
“We have commented previously that perhaps the biggest constraint to the widespread uptake of neighbourhood planning is lack of available funding," said Jamie Lockerbie, planning expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.
"Neighbourhood Forums or Parish Councils which do not have members with the necessary experience may well need to commit to incurring expenditure in the form of professional advice and assistance, and so any form of grant funding will no doubt be warmly received," said Lockerbie.
"However, one has to question how “need” will be assessed. Will it be a lack of access to nil cost professional advice, or perhaps being located in an area that is recognised to be in need of regeneration? This will be one of the key issues would-be contractors will need to address," Lockerbie said.