Community Energy Planning is about defining and organising objectives and activities in order to achieve meaningful change towards a more sustainable energy system.
Different people will have different interests and so the goal should be to deliver a plan that effectively represents the collective priorities of the group as a whole.
Some things to think about:
- A plan that represents the views of the group as a whole will achieve maximum ‘buy-in’ from the group making it most likely to succeed
- A consistent and transparent method for deciding on priorities could include employing an impartial facilitator, ‘brainstorming’ ideas and using a points system to prioritise results
- Try to define objectives that are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. These are referred to as ‘SMART’ objectives
- Don’t try to do everything at once – focus on two or three priorities initially, preferably including some that can be achieved quickly to build confidence and support
- Remember the plan is not set in stone. It can be adapted over time as your group matures and your priorities evolve
The process will undoubtedly require negotiation and compromise. It may be difficult to incorporate every outcome sought by each individual but achieving a consensus on the big issues will help to galvanise the group and unite it behind a common purpose.
Neighbourhood Plans (Localism Act 2011)
The Localism Act (2011) introduced new rights for communities to contribute to planning policy in their area by developing Neighbourhood Plans. These can be developed either by a town or parish council or by a ‘neighbourhood forum’ setup especially for this purpose. These neighbourhood bodies can then develop general planning policies covering issues such as new building and development, energy, waste and natural resources policies for the area. As such Neighbourhood planning is very relevant to communities wishing to engage actively with energy in their area.
Once a Neighbourhood plan has been prepared it will be independently examined and must pass a community referendum before coming into legal force. Further information is available on the DCLG website and from the National Planning Portal here.