Sustainable Neighbourhood Planning Support

Supporting communities to create low carbon neighbourhood plans

Project duration: July 2017 ongoing

Neighbourhood planning offers communities the opportunity to develop a positive vision of their future. Pioneering towns, villages and neighbourhoods are already mapping out ambitious plans that will improve quality of life and at the same time make the transition to a low carbon energy and transport system.

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 future.

For free planning advice and assistance to draft a low carbon neighbourhood plan for your community, please contact us at or on 0117 934 1400.

Our team - which includes a chartered town planner and others with expertise in community engagement and community energy - is able to offer free hands-on support and advice to neighbourhood planning groups, as follows:

  • Initial advice on the relevant sustainability and climate issues in your area, and the accompanying opportunities - e.g. in transport, improving green spaces, the energy efficiency of existing and new buildings, flooding, habitat protection and renewable energy.
  • Advice on gaining support for sustainability measures as part of the vision for your community.
  • A second opinion on your draft neighbourhood plan and detailed support with policy drafting and wording.
  • Delivering presentations and workshops or helping with delivery of public events, including identifying key stakeholders and ensuring comprehensive engagement.
  • Research for developing an evidence base.

We will tailor the support we offer depending on the resources we have available, what is needed and the progress your neighbourhood plan has already made.

"Neighbourhood planning provides an opportunity for communities to think about how they can make their local area more resilient," said Dan Stone, who will be managing the support programme. "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."

We have also developed a range of online resources and guides to help you:

Neighbourhood Planning in a Climate Emergency (previous editions were called Low-Carbon Neighbourhood Planning)
The new and updated edition of our popular guidebook – 15,000 downloads and counting – explores the potential of ‘low carbon’ neighbourhood plans to incorporate policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The 3rd edition, with a foreword from the Town and Country Planning Association, has been thoroughly overhauled and now has much more policy detail, in particular around renewable energy.

How Green is my Plan (urban & suburban)
How Green is my Plan (rural)

Whether your community is urban or rural, these self-assessments will help you to assess your draft plan and see how well it performs in terms of climate change and sustainability, and how it could be improved.

Energy landscape Workshops – community consultation method
If you’re at the point where your community is generally supportive of renewable energy, but is unsure of what policies to include, this workshop resource can help you work independently towards an informed consensus on the type of renewable energy that could carry community support. 

We are looking for groups where we can pilot these workshops as a policy tool at a subsidised cost.

How to identify suitable areas for onshore wind development in your neighbourhood plan 
Step-by-step guide to help community groups identify suitable areas for onshore wind development in their Neighbourhood Plan. Includes guidance on 'constraints mapping', suggestions for approaching community involvement and a recommended template for a wind policy.

More background

Neighbourhood plans are officially recognised and provide a legally robust opportunity for communities to produce positive and ambitious sustainable energy plans. Yet 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.

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. We’ll use our connections with other organisations concerned with planning, such as the Town and Country Planning Association, Locality, 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.

This 3-year programme is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

For further information contact:

Dan Stone | 0117 934 1417

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