Key stages, tasks and roles (including yours)
The community guidance suggests a number of stages at which your support would be particularly valuable and also a number of tasks on which communities might welcome help. The key ones, and how you might be able to help, are covered below.
Is a Place Plan the right approach?
This is absolutely fundamental. Nobody wants any community to set off on a course to produce a Place Plan if it is not, for whatever reason, the most appropriate way forward in their particular situation. Not only would that waste their time and money, it would also waste yours and your authority’s, as well as almost inevitably creating annoyance and frustration all round, including a loss of confidence in planning as a whole.
Under ‘5 Steps to Making a Decision’ Town or Community Councils are asked to set up a small, temporary ‘Decision Group’. That group then needs to complete some forms with notes about the issues most important to them and about the resources (time, money etc.) they have or might have available to them to prepare a Place Plan.
This is where your first support role comes in because the guidance then asks them to check everything with their local planning authority before deciding whether to proceed or not. It may also be appropriate on some occasions to suggest (gently!) to smaller or anxious communities that they form a cluster with others to do one plan and share some of the common resources and tasks.
If a Place Plan is not right, where then?
A decision that a Place Plan is not right for a particular community need not be the end of the line. The very final part of the ‘5 Steps’ guidance suggests what else a community might do if not a Place Plan. If that seems to be emerging when you meet as above, it is not your role to discuss that in detail, but it could be valuable to refer them to someone else in your authority (maybe not in planning) who can help them on initiatives such as well-being plans and projects that do not fit easily into SPG.
What funding is available?
The community guidance includes a ‘Toolkit’ on funding. Groups might refer to this to help them fill in the forms mentioned above but, probably more importantly, once they are starting a Place Plan (if that is their decision). Once again, this is not really part of your role, although you may well know of specific grant support available in your authority area or, as before, you may know who to direct them to in order to get that advice.