Community Power

At RCCE, we believe that communities have the power to influence change.

We work with local communities to plan for their future, by supporting parish councils and community groups in the production of Community Led Plans.

The different types of Community Led Plan are:

  • Parish Plans
  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Village Design Statements

These are explained below, and in a comparison grid at the foot of the page.

Our dedicated team of Community Engagement Officers can provide direct support by attending meetings, advising on funding and how to involve everyone in the project.  Information Packs are available to help you through the process and you can see completed examples from other communities.

We can also put you in touch with other communities who have completed Community Led Plans and shaped their own future.  See information about the Community Led Planning Network below

The characteristics of Community Led Plans are:

They are produced by the community at a very local level, thereby representing the parish as a whole;
They enable local community groups to become actively involved in the decision making process affecting the future of their parish;
The process of producing a Community Led Plan establishes local needs and aspirations, highlights issues and priorities, and develops a vision for the future of the community.

See the TopicSheets for or more details.

What is a Parish Plan?

A Parish Plan determines the future of your community, and how it can change for the better.
It is a document that sets out a vision for the future of the parish and outlines how that can be achieved in an Action Plan.

The Parish Plan process may include:

  • A Village Appraisal – a household questionnaire to assess needs and aspirations of local people
  • Participatory Appraisals – hands-on interactive workshops
  • Business Surveys
  • Creation of an Action Plan

What is a Village Design Statement?

A Village Design Statement provides an opportunity for your community to describe how they feel the physical character of the parish can be enhanced.
It is a document that identifies what is special, unique and distinctive about the character of the parish.

It provides design guidance to influence change and improve the physical qualities of the area.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

The Localism Act introduces a new right for a parish council or a neighbourhood forum to produce a ‘neighbourhood development plan’ setting out policies against which traditional planning applications could be judged. These policies could cover:

  • planning objectives for the neighbourhood;
  • the broad planning context (e.g. transport connections), local facilities, services;
  • key neighbourhood projects and infrastructure priorities;
  • development management policies on housing, economic development, environment;
  • site-specific policies on housing, economic development and environmental issues;
  • changes in the coverage of some planning designations.

(Source: Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning Prospectus - Appendix 2)

Neighbourhood Planning initiatives will be additional to, and not a replacement for, the existing planning system in England. The plans will be allowed to accommodate more housing than proposed by the local authority’s development plan but they will not be able to provide for less. Provided a neighbourhood development plan is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. If the plan is approved by a majority, then the local authority will bring it into force.


Parish Plan

Neighbourhood Plan

Design Statement


Assess current and future potential issues and set out an action plan to tackle the issues.

Assess physical (spatial) assets and set out what should be protected and where future development should go.

Assess character and set guidelines to influence what future development should look like.


A business plan for the community, adopted by the parish council to take forward in partnership with other organisations.

Part of the Local Development Framework evidence base (NOTE: Some local authorities have also approved as a material consideration in the determination of planning applications)

Part of the local authority development plan (subject to an independent examination and support by local referendum)

Might also result in a ‘Neighbourhood Development Order’ which (subject to an independent examination and support by local referendum) will set out development proposals without the need to seek planning permission.

Sits outside the local authority development plan as ‘a material consideration in the determination of planning applications’ or ‘planning guidance’ (subject to local authority approval)

Some authorities have adopted VDS as Supplementary Planning Documents to make them part of the Local Development Plan


Description of the services and facilities and their strengths and weaknesses.
Views and opinions on all matters affecting quality of life and aspirations for the future.
Action Plan outlining projects, timescale, costs and organisations involved.

Expected to include:
Audit of land use and infrastructure.
Views and opinion about local need and aspirations for conservation and development.
Policies on objectives for the area, infrastructure priorities, and a map outlining open space of community importance, assets of community value and locations for development.

Assessment of the character of the built and natural environment.
Views and opinion about various elements of character and aspirations for the future.
Guidelines about the design of future development (including an attempt to influence permitted development).

For more information contact the Community Engagement Team

CommunityLed Planning Leaflet.pdf

Information Packs

RCCE has produced Information Packs to help guide you through the process of your community led plan.

Information Packs available are:

Parish Plans
This Pack provides information and advice on how to produce a Parish Plan.

Village Design Statements
This Pack provides information and advice on how to produce a Village Design Statement.

This is an on-line guide, produced by RCCE in partnership with the Essex Planning Officers Association and the Essex Community Led Planning Officer Network. 

A PDF version is available to download here.

This guide will draw on RCCE experience of supporting other types of community led planning but it is important to remember that the process of Neighbourhood Planning is still being tested. 
It is essential that the local planning authority is involved throughout the process; however, each local authority will have different resources for neighbourhood planning.  Some local authorities work closely with other organisations that promote community led planning so the combination and method of support will vary in each local authority area. Before starting work on a Neighbourhood Plan, communities are advised to contact their local authority and establish the type of support available in their area.

Statutory Planning
This Pack provides information about the statutory planning system and opportunities for involvement. The pack explains how to participate in consultations organised by the local authority and how to influence statutory plans through the production of community led plans such as Parish Plans and Village Design Statements.

Involving the Community in Your Project
This Pack provides information and advice to community groups about different types of surveys - the advantages and disadvantages of different methods, good practice in carrying out surveys and how to use the information gathered.

Good Neighbour Scheme
This Pack provides information and advice on setting up and running a Good Neighbour Scheme.

Toolkit for the Natural Environment produced by Community Council of Devon
This pack provides advice for anyone wanting to get more involved in the natural environment; through volunPeering with existing projects, getting people together to set up a new project, or carrying out research.  The focus is on the county of Devon but the general information and advice will be relevant to Essex as well.

Survey Resource Packs

This Resource Pack provides examples and practical advice about Workshops.

Participatory Methods
This Resource Pack provides examples and practical advice about Participatory Methods.

Finding Factual Information
This Resource Pack provides examples and practical advice about how to find Factual Information.

This Resource Pack provides examples and practical advice about Questionnaires. It is available upon request.

Neighbourhood Planning Guide

This guide has been produced by RCCE in partnership with the Essex Planning Officers Association and the Essex Community Led Planning Officer Network. 

Thanks are also due to the following for permission to use extracts from their publications:     Richard Squires, Broadland District Council - Neighbourhood Planning Guidance.     
    Riki Therivel, Levett-Therivel & URS - DIY SA guide.

This guide draws on RCCE experience of supporting other types of community led planning but it is important to remember that the process of Neighbourhood Planning is still being tested. 

It is essential that the local planning authority is involved throughout the process; however, each local authority will have different resources for neighbourhood planning. 

The following may also be able to provide assistance:     
    Essex County Council and Unitary Councils     
    Rural Community Council of Essex       
    Campaign for the Protection of Rural England in partnership with the National Association of Local Councils     
    Planning Aid 

Forum for Neighbourhood Planning

The Princes Foundation

PlanningAdvisory Service



Some of these organisations have in the past been funded by government to Support Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning and their assistance may be free of charge (subject to meeting specific criteria).  Others will charge for their support.

Before starting work on a Neighbourhood Plan, communities are advised to contact their local authority and establish the type of support available in their area.

The Guide can be viewed below, or downloaded as a PDF file
    What it is, why do it and who to involve. 
The Process     
    An overview of the stages and steps 
Getting Started
Getting Organised
Preparing an Evidence Base
Drafting Proposals     
Finalising your Plan


What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

The Localism Act has introduced a new type of Community Led Plan.

Communities now have the right to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, setting out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or neighbourhood area.  The Neighbourhood Plan will show how the level of growth identified in the Core Strategy / Local Plan is to be met or exceeded.

Once the plan is made, it will become part of the local authority development plan, a statutory plan against which planning applications will be judged.  A Neighbourhood Plan might also result in a Neighbourhood Development Order which will grant planning permission for specific development proposals.

For Neighbourhood Plans or Orders to be adopted, they will need to conform to planning policies and guidance at the local, national and European level.  They will also need to demonstrate support from the local community through a referendum. 

Why produce a Neighbourhood Plan?

Developing a Neighbourhood Plan can help communities to play a greater role in determining the future of their area.  It is not a tool to stop development where it is already included in the Core Strategy / Local Plan; it gives communities the opportunity to shape what that planned growth will look like and where additional growth might go.

It will bring the community together to share ideas and build consensus about needs and priorities for the area.

It can also help to create lasting partnerships to take forward actions that may arise from the process.

If the issues in your neighbourhood do not relate to land use and development, or if they relate solely to the provision of affordable housing, there may the other community led solutions that are more appropriate than Neighbourhood Planning.

NOTE: In a business area, a Neighbourhood Plan can be ‘business-led’ – this guide focuses on neighbourhoods where the process is led by local residents. 

Who needs to be involved?

The parish council or neighbourhood forum must initiate and lead the process.  They will need to involve the wider community in the development of the plan: residents, businesses, local groups, landowners and developers. 

It is essential that the local planning authority is involved throughout the process; they have direct responsibility for some of the steps and have a wealth of information that will be useful in producing the Neighbourhood Plan.  It may also be necessary to engage other organisations or commercial consultants to assist with the process.

This guidance clearly shows what the parish council or neighbourhood forum needs to do at each step in the process, and the type of support it may need from other organisations.  The combination and method of support at each step will differ in each local authority area.

How do you produce a Neighbourhood Plan?


Five broad stages and a list of steps in the process is set out below.  The steps may not necessarily need to be undertaken in this order and some may be undertaken concurrently.  These are suggestions and may be amended in the light of practical experience as Neighbourhood Plans are progressed. 

From past experience a community led plan takes a minimum of 18 months to complete.  A neighbourhood plan has additional steps, particularly at the end of the process, which will be beyond the control of the community.

Because a Neighbourhood Plan will become a statutory document, some of the steps are obligatory.  These are shown in bold type in the right hand column.  Click on the stages in the left hand column to find out more about each of the stages.


Getting Started



Prepare a list of local contacts


Get the community on board


Establish a steering group


Define the ‘neighbourhood area’ and seek approval

Getting Organised



Develop a communication strategy


Create a time plan for the process


Determine local skills, expertise and training needs


Prepare a budget


Secure funding


Keep a record of community involvement and consultation


Review existing plans and strategies for the area


Establish the focus of attention for evidence gathering

Preparing an Evidence Base



Familiarise yourselves with Sustainability Appraisal (SA)


Familiarise yourselves with Equality Impact Assessment (EIA)


Create a profile of your community


Audit existing infrastructure and designations


Carry out surveys and needs assessments


Summarise findings and consider how to tackle the issues

Drafting Proposals



Draft a vision and objectives for the area


Feedback and further community involvement


Prepare an SA Scoping Report


Assess impact of options


Choose preferred options and draw up proposals


Check for conformity with strategic policies in the development plan


Consult on proposals

Finalising your Plan



Fine tune your plan to minimise overall impacts


Agree monitoring, evaluation and review


Prepare final Neighbourhood Plan document


Prepare final SA Report


Prepare EIA Report


Consult on Proposals


Submit Proposals for Validation


Independent Examination




The plan is made

Community Led Planning Support Services

The Community Engagement Team has extensive experience of supporting Community Led Planning initiatives and offers a number of support options:

Start up support package

Communities at the start of the process may need officer assistance to plan and run initial workshops, form and constitute a steering group, create time plans and budgets, engage with different stakeholders.

In progress support package

Officers can provide assistance and advice on gathering evidence, community engagement programme, preparing a vision and objectives, exploring options, drafting proposals, establishing monitoring and review arrangements.

Tailored support

Some groups welcome officer support at particular events or with specific tasks in the process.

Community Led Planning Network 

Network membership provides access to templates and documents in the online members area and updates on good practice guidelines, as well free attendance at network meetings. The opportunity to discuss common issues with other CLP groups can be the most valuable experience of all.

For more information, click on the links, call 01376 574330 or contact Sarah Sapsford

Community Led Planning Network

RCCE has always tried to share best practice and believes that, by formalising a network, Community Led Planning Groups will be able to take advantage of the wealth of information and experience accumulated.
How will you benefit from joining the Community Led Planning Network? 

  • Regular Networking and Learning meetings - a chance to meet other groups and share experiences and good practice as well as receiving information and guidance.
  • You will be able to borrow display boards for your events
  • You will have easy access to online information i.e. model constitutions, profile sheets, project plans, questionnaires
  • You will receive responses to email and telephone enquiries and signposting to good practice advice

How can you ‘sign-up’ to the ‘Network’?

From June 2017  any RCCE member can join the network and enjoy its benefits for free:

There is still a requirement to complete the Application Form and send to the Community Engagement Team at RCCE and additional support packages are available to purchase. Please talk to one of teh Community Engagement Team to find out more.
Resources are available in the Members Area

Need more help?

Network Membership Application Form 

If you require help with facilitation of workshops and setting up a group to get a Community Led Plan underway, RCCE can provide additional support services.
For more information call Sarah Sapsford on 01376 574330 or email

Officer Support

If you need the support of a Community Engagement Officer to help set up your steering group, to attend evening meetings, to speak at events or to facilitate community workshops, you may like to purchase a 'start up' or 'in progress' support package, or design a package tailored to your own needs. 

The charges for packages of support are subsidised in some local authority areas to reflect the funding the Community Engagement Team receives to assist communities in those districts / boroughs. 

Community Led Plan Support Service.doc

To apply for a package of support, please complete and return a request form
Request for support services.doc

For more information, call 01376 574330 or contact Sarah Sapsford