PlanLoCaL: the website, videos and resource packs
Giving communities the knowledge and confidence to influence local planning policy
Project duration: April 2010 ongoing
A significant output from CSE’s PlanLoCaL project has been a group of products designed to help communities establish renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects, and neighbourhood plans through inclusive community decision-making and engagement with the planning system.
These include the PlanLoCaL website (www.planlocal.org.uk), a series of short videos and a set of three resource packs:
- PlanLoCaL: community renewables
- PlanLoCaL: energy efficiency and community Green Deal
- PlanLoCaL: localism and neighbourhood planning
These are being used by community activists and community development workers seeking to get renewable energy projects off the ground. They cover the renewable energy technologies themselves, plus other critical issues like planning, neighbourhood consultation, funding, legalities and even how to spend any profits.
The website | www.planlocal.org.uk
CSE's Chief Executive Simon Roberts introduces the website:
The website is an in-depth resource containing all PlanLoCaL's written guidance, videos and a wealth of links to other advice sources. It was launched in April 2011 and redesigned in January 2013.
The website first developed out of work CSE undertook with ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) to understand the processes of community-led planning and help to place low-carbon planning within the priorities that emerge.
We made 47 PlanLoCaL: community renewables videos which range from around 4 to 12 minutes in length. Ten of the films are case studies of successful community energy projects. Others cover relevant topics such as introductions to the different renewable energy technologies, project management, funding, dealing with planning, consulting with the community, generating an income stream, re-investing your profits and heritage and landscape.
For PlanLoCaL: energy efficiency and community Green Deal, we made 12 new short animated films which give guidance on engaging with the Green Deal, setting up and running various types of community energy efficiency projects, along with case studies and advice from groups that have already run community schemes.
The videos are available on DVDs to accompany the resource packs (below). They are designed to be watched in a communal setting and as an aid to collective decision-making when combined with the participatory exercises in the resource packs.
The resource packs
The first PlanLoCaL resource pack and DVDs grew out of a series of half-day training events that demonstrated the steps communities need to take to set up a viable renewable energy project, and the benefits that the community might enjoy as a result. Popular demand for more of these sessions prompted us to produce a resource that would allow communities to ‘do it for themselves’ – something that is very much in keeping with CSE’s approach of empowering others.
In January 2013, we released a second comprehensive resource pack to equip communities to engage with the Green Deal and other energy efficiency projects.
The packs themselves are hefty A4 binders full of exercises, images, case studies, technical information, support on running events and help on setting up as a group. Interspersing factual information with participatory exercises, they are designed to empower communities to make decisions and plan projects on their own. You can order a free copy via this page of the PlanLoCaL website.
Our resources on low carbon localism and neighbourhood planning are also available as a third mini-pack on request.
In 2013, 'PlanLoCaL: community renewables' was a runner-up in the Learning category at the Sustainable Energy Europe & ManagEnergy Awards (presented by the European Commission), while 'PlanLoCaL: energy efficiency and the Green Deal' won the Sustainability Communicator category at the ENDS Green Economy Awards.
You can find every resource from the three packs, plus various other useful documents, on the PlanLoCaL website, and they are downloadable in chapter-sized chunks from the downloads section.
Feedback on the PlanLoCaL pack
CSE used online questionnaires to collect feedback about the PlanLoCaL: community renewables pack and training. The pack evaluation survey received responses from 61 groups including county councils, city councils, district councils and unitary authorities, community groups, transition groups, a university architecture department and more. Feedback included the following comments (which we can’t attribute because the survey was confidential) and for more glowing tributes, click here:
“It’s a fabulous resource that I have recommended to many people.”
“We had already gone through a number of processes before we got the pack but it gives us more confidence we are on the right track and enables more [people] on our Committee to consider the process and options.”
“The pack helped with choosing what type of consultation to do, and reinforced how important it is to consult the community as widely as possible.”
“It has given the team a lot of information and enabled us to develop our own engagement programme.”
“Would have taken months of research to have achieved this myself.”
“Excellent resources to use both professionally and personally.”
“Made me stand back and look at community renewable energy projects in the context of its general importance to other people in the community who are less concerned with climate change impacts and sustainable energy."
We envisage that there are two ‘types’ of people who will use the PlanLoCaL resources:
- Community activists or individual community members (or small ‘core groups’ of people) who want to establish a community-owned renewable energy project or energy efficiency scheme in their own locality.
- Community development workers or individuals who would use this pack as part of their job, perhaps as a way to kick-start a process that would get a community interested in the idea of a community energy scheme.
Read about a PlanLoCaL training day, held in Bath in February 2011, here.