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Is Economic Development Always More Important than Social and Environmental Issues?

This is the core question at the heart of two proposed changes to planning policy across the whole region. The two draft Planning Policy Statements (PPS 23 and PPS 24) are out for consultation until 6 May 2011. The incoming Minister of the Environment will have the findings of the consultation on his or her desk shortly after taking up office. If the Minister decides to adopt the proposed changes it will alter the course of planning for years to come.

Draft PPS 24 is three sentences long and as such is one of the shortest Planning Policy Statements ever drafted. It simply proposes that "where the economic implications of a proposal are significant" then all social and economic issues can be outweighed. If approved, PPS 24 will effectively sit above all other Planning Policy Statements. Those submitting proposals under the new policy would be asked to set out the economic implications.

Draft PPS 23 is called Enabling Development and while more complicated than draft PPS 24 it is similar in intent. The draft proposes that a development proposal which "is contrary to established planning policy and … would not be permitted" may be allowed where it subsidises a development which:

  • involves a place of heritage value (eg historic building, park or garden); or
  • is of public benefit (eg social, health, leisure facilities); or
  • removes "undesirable use" on land owned by the applicant.

We have prepared a summary of the two policy proposals and will send it to all members and other community groups interested in planning issues. We will also give advice to groups who are thinking about responding to the consultation.

18 April 2011

Awards of £5,000 for Spaces for Young People

Awards of up to £5,000 are available for the provision of spaces for young people to use. The spaces can be currently underused or unused. The idea is that the space will become a space for creative, cultural or sporting activities by young people. The Awards are open to individuals over 16 and anyone can apply, as long as young people benefit from the project. The closing date is 5 May 2011 (noon). The Spaces4Change application form and Guidance notes for applicants is available as an online application on:


13 April 2011

Groundwork's Community Allotment Design Service

Groundwork NI is offering a new landscape design service aimed at groups or individuals who wish to start their own community allotment project. Groups signing up for this service will receive a professional landscape design and illustrated plan of their proposals for use in funding applications and for public display purposes. For this service a flat fee of £800 plus VAT will be charged. This fee will cover the following key elements:

  • an initial site survey carried out by a member of Groundwork NI;
  • a detailed soil test on site plus report;
  • a services check for underground or overhead services on the site;
  • a half day consultation with a Landscape Architect to assess the group’s needs;
  • a professional sketch design drawn up;
  • up to six copies of this design in electronic and print formats;
  • an approximate cost breakdown for the proposed scheme;
  • advice on funding sources, fundraising, grant applications and planning application procedures, if required; and
  • provision of an advice leaflet on setting up a sustainable allotment project.

Groundwork NI is offering a special 10% discount to the first ten community groups who avail of this new service before 31 May 2011 (Quote Ref: GOO1). To find out more about these services, please contact Judy Meharg, Groundwork's Principal Landscape Architect on 9074 9494 or email

30 March 2011

£5 Million Lottery Cash to Help Community Venues Save Money During the Recession

Community groups throughout the region can apply to a £5 million Lottery programme to help them make improvements to their venues and save money during the recession.

The Big Lottery Fund's Energy Efficient Venues Programme offers Lottery cash to local groups to carry out improvements to their community venues so they can make savings on their heating and lighting costs and cut down on their spending.

Organisations can apply for two grant sizes through the Programme. Grants of £2,000 - £10,000 and grants of £15,000 - £50,000 are available for groups to carry out improvements such as double glazing, upgrading insulation, or installing a more efficient heating system.

If the venue is already energy efficient, a grant could give organisations the opportunity to install solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass technologies such as wood pellet boilers.

In order to qualify for a large grant, groups must carry out an Energy Audit of their venue. An Energy Audit is a report that shows groups how making improvements to their venue could help them save energy and cut their costs. If groups want help with paying for an Energy Audit they can either include the costs in their application for a small grant, or pay for it themselves.

It is possible to apply for a small grant followed by a large grant. But community organisations should be aware that, if they plan to do this, they need to get their application for a small grant in to the Big Lottery Fund by the end of August 2011. This will give them time to have their small grant assessed and awarded and to complete their project before applying for a large grant.

Groups that have already benefited from the programme include a small rural community group that is installing new PVC windows and ceiling insulation, and a community childcare centre that is putting in new radiators and buying energy efficient light bulbs. While a care home is improving its loft insulation and installing gas–fired tumble driers, and a sports club is carrying out an Energy Audit to find out whether they can install a wind turbine.

Information and application packs for the Energy Efficient Venues Programme are currently available and can be accessed by visiting the programme pages of the Big Lottery Fund's website or by calling the Big Lottery Fund's Information and Events team on 9055 1455. Groups can contact Community Places for help with the application process including advice on: 

  • energy efficiency measures;
  • planning permission and building control processes;
  • tendering and contracting for small scale capital projects; and
  • accessibility issues and sustainable development.

 Telephone 9023 9444, contact Elaine or Celine ( or

14 March 2011

Local Government Reform Consultation

The Department of the Environment published policy proposals for the reform of local government on 30 November 2010. The proposals set out governance arrangements for new councils and cover a range of issues including: the introduction of Community Planning responsibilities and power of well-being; ethical standards, oversight, and checks and balances to ensure fair and transparent decision-making.

Community Places held two workshops (in collaboration with the Rural Community Network and NICVA) to discuss the proposals and we have now prepared a Briefing Note to help groups respond to the consultation. Click here to download it. The consultation closes on 11 March 2011 and further information is available on the DoE website. Our response to the consultation proposals can be downloaded here.

If you would like any help with your consultation response please contact Louise or Clare at Community Places - telephone 9023 9444 or email

7 March 2011