Sustainable Neighbourhood Planning Support

Supporting communities to draft low carbon neighbourhood plans

Project duration: July 2017 ongoing

CSE has received funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for a three-year support programme that will encourage neighbourhood planning groups to make sure their area contributes to a sustainable energy future.

Neighbourhood plans are officially recognised and provide a legally robust opportunity for communities to produce positive and ambitious sustainable energy plans. Yet there a number of barriers that prevent many neighbourhood planning groups from taking this on, and, so far, very few neighbourhoods have adopted a plan that specifically includes a low carbon element: in fact, a 2017 study by CSE showed that only 7% of plans refer to climate change as a major concern, and, of those, only a handful contain policy wording that would drive action on the issue.

Our support programme aims to change that. We will provide assistance to neighbourhood planning groups to include a strategy for energy transition in their plans, backed up with appropriate, enforceable policy wording. This might include allocating a site for onshore wind, including specifications for retrofitting buildings, planning to set up a community-owned energy company or seeking planning permission for a future solar farm.

"Neighbourhood planning provides an opportunity for communities to think about how they can make their local area more resilient", explained Dan Stone, CSE’s project lead. "In terms of energy and climate change, this could mean being more resilient to future flooding and energy price volatility, or using income from community-led renewable energy to invest in local assets and services."

While the support programme will build on CSE's previous neighbourhood planning support work, it also brings in a detailed new methodology for developing an ambitious local energy strategy, based on the methodology and resources created by Future Energy Landscapes, a CSE project from 2016, run in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). In this project, people from two communities - Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire and Congresbury in Somerset - took part in workshops where they were asked to consider what low carbon energy infrastructure might be appropriate in principle in their area. In order to encourage consensus and avoid the taking of sides, discussions deliberately took place in the absence of any actual planning application.

What Future Energy Landscapes demonstrated was that a new approach to energy planning that reduced local opposition to new energy infrastructure was possible if local people are at the heart of the process of choosing what’s appropriate for their area and that ambitious plans for a low-carbon community could emerge.

The new support programme will focus on creating helpful resources for those in the first stages of neighbourhood planning as well as updating our popular guidebook Low Carbon Neighbourhood Planning -  5,100 downloads and counting! We’ll use our connections with other organisations concerned with planning, such as the Town and Country Planning Association, CPRE and the Royal Town Planning Institute, to publicise the use of neighbourhood plans for low-carbon purposes.

Rachel Coxcoon, head of Local & Community Empowerment at CSE, said "Neighbourhood planning is an opportunity for communities to understand the problems they face and develop locally appropriate solutions which improve their resilience and quality of life. The consent that they generate is exactly what makes them so appropriate for creating a framework for radical energy system change.

"To date, national community energy policy has favoured more wealthy areas where people tend to have more capacity - and cash - to develop local projects. Deprived areas have more acute energy-related vulnerabilities (due to low incomes and poor housing) and greater scope to increase energy resilience, but less evidence of community engagement. We hope to provide particularly targeted support to these kinds of deprived communities through this programme" she added.

The programme will open for applications for support in January 2018, but communities interested in receiving updates and alerts before that time should register their interest by emailing communities@cse.org.uk, letting us know what stage your neighbourhood plan is at, and any areas of support you are specifically interested in.


This project is being funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

For further information contact:

Dan Stone |

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