Independent and not-for-profit with 30 years' expertise in planning, community planning and engagement


Lottery Funding to Improve Energy Efficiency in Community Venues

The Big Lottery Fund launched its Energy Efficient Venues Programme on 19 May 2010. It will run for two years and will provide funding for groups to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and other venues. Two sizes of grant are available - one from £2,000 to £10,000 and another from £15,000 to £50,000 - and groups can use the funding for a range of energy efficiency measures from installing double glazing, replacing inefficient heating systems and draught-proofing to installing renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and biomass heating. 

Community Places has been appointed by the Big Lottery to provide technical information, support and advice to groups. We will give advice on energy efficiency measures; planning permission and building control processes; accessibility and sustainable development; and tendering for contractors and installers. We will also guide groups through undertaking an Energy Audit (which is a requirement of the larger grant application process). 

View our Energy Efficient Venues webpage.

24 May 2010

Planning Reform - Community Lobby Successes

The Department of the Environment has issued its decisions on the future shape of planning in the region. Community lobbying by members of Community Places has been successful in: 

  • protecting everyone's right to be heard at public inquiries on planning issues;
  • winning the legal right for communities to be consulted on major developments before planning applications are submitted;
  • securing a statutory link between Community Plans and Area Plans;
  • gaining acceptance of the need for Development Plans to support both social and sustainable development, assist in tackling disadvantage and poverty and promoting inclusion and equality.

Two other major issues have been recognised as needing further consideration in the future. These are: Third Party Right of Appeal (which was supported by 59% of responses) and Community Infrastructure Levy (developers' contributions) which was supported by 90% of community and voluntary groups and 43% of business and development responses. The full report is available on Planning Service's website and further details on the community issues are available from Community Places. 

31 March 2010

£500,000 Bonus Payments to Planning Service Staff

The Belfast Telegraph has reported that nearly £500,000 in 'bonus payments' were made to Planning Service staff. The paper says the figures were obtained by it under a Freedom of Information request and comments that "they are particularly disturbing becuase some civil servants were paid huge bonuses despite a series of high-profile failures".

The paper also notes that the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee found the planning system "not fit for purpose" and that only one out of six Divisional Planning Offices - that based in Omagh - met all its targets for processing applications. According to the paper the Public Accounts Committee found that customer satisfaction levels with the Planning Service had deteriorated from 76% to 32% in the last decade.

Read more on the paper's website.

29 March 2010

Policy for Rathlin

Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, today announced that the Executive has introduced a policy for Rathlin Island. This comes as very welcome news to Rathlin Development and Community Association which has lobbied long and hard for a policy specific to the island.

The purpose of the policy is to develop a vibrant healthy island community and increase the involvement of islanders in the development of policies and projects which improve conditions for all of the people of the island while also protecting its environment. The policy has the strategic aims of:

  • enhancing community involvement;
  • improving the provision of public services for islanders;
  • advancing policies for a sustainable island community; and
  • conserving the Island's exceptional environmental heritage.

In announcing the policy, the Minister said: "It is only right that islanders receive access to public services that the rest of us often take for granted and the policy will seek to improve the conditions of all people on the island while also protecting its natural and cultural heritage".

2 March 2010

Securing Better Development in Your Area

In November 2009, the Department of the Environment released a consultation paper - Draft Addendum to Planning Policy Statement 7, Safeguarding the Character of Established Residential Areas. This paper proposes new policies that will apply in residential areas. It includes policies intended to protect the character of existing residential areas, to secure better new apartment developments and conversions and to encourage the use of permeable paving.

Community Places briefed the Assembly Environment Committee on 4 February 2010, setting out how we believe that the new policies could be improved to ensure better new apartment developments that provide a range of accommodation types. Members of the Environment Committee were very interested in these issues.

A workshop was held on 12 February 2010 and attended by groups from across the region to assist them in responding to this policy. Participants raised a number of issues about the negative impacts of recent developments in their areas and how the new policy could help address these problems.

Consultation closes on 5 March 2010 and anyone interested in securing a better policy for new development in residential areas should respond. If you would like any further information, please contact us (telephone 9023 9444) or email

19 February 2010