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February 15, 2017

Help Plan Your Local Neighbourhood

Help Plan Your Local Neighbourhood

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Have you always wanted to help shape your community? Perhaps you’d like to build your own house? Or make sure your local playing fields stay green? Well the government has been trying to make it easier for you to help plan your local neighbourhood.

In the next few months a new policy called the Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2016-2017 will become law. It wants to give more power to communities and allow neighbourhoods to decide what sort of development takes place and even where it will take place. But how can you get involved and why would you want to?

Many have ambitions of owning their own home or even building it; neighbourhood planning will help many people get that chance. The UK has a long history of ‘self build’, many people buy a piece of land and hire an architect and builder to build it, and some may even do it themselves. But over the years it’s become harder to do this because planning permission is more difficult to obtain, making it harder to help plan your local neighbourhood. Neighbourhood planning aims to put that right by letting local people influence what type of opportunities are available. This could involve for example, reserving plots of land for locals, or like a recent case in St Ives Cornwall, banning new builds from becoming people’s second homes. Building your own house is not that difficult and there are plenty of ‘find a builder’ services to help you, such as the one provided by the National Federation of Builders. Banks are also happy to fund self-build projects subject to planning permission.

If you are looking to find a builder remember that builders should have the proper insurance, offer guarantees and be able to provide references and even past examples of work. But you don’t have to do it alone; you could do it as a group. Local developers make great partners, government funding through the Homes and Communities Agency is available and groups like Community Land Trusts can also provide help. Perhaps you know a friendly farmer who wants to give away some land for local people to build on?

See also: First Time Buyers

Unfortunately, the UK banks have not yet caught onto the idea of group mortgages, which is available in other European countries such as Germany, but this may change in the near future. If you are a renter you can also help plan your local neighbourhood, with neighbourhood planning you can influence what type of homes are built. Maybe the area needs more housing associations or council houses? Maybe a type of home is needed, such as family sized flats. You can help make that happen. Maybe you think your area needs more or less homes: you can argue that too, you can even help decide which pieces of land should be considered.
It’s not just housing that is affected; business owners will benefit because they can suggest ways to bring more people into the local area. This could be a better bus route, new business spaces or the chance to be part of a new road or rail network.

So how do you get involved? Help plan your local neighbourhood by forming a local group. Or see if your area already has one. If it doesn’t then you’ll need to find some other people who are interested; maybe check local forums, Facebook and Twitter or get in contact with your local councillor. Now you have a group you can start to plan your local neighbourhood ask questions that are important to you. Try to voice your concerns; they may be mirrored with the other members of the group. Telling people what you think the area needs is vital; maybe there needs to be more open spaces for kids to play, better sports facilities or even more schools. Perhaps you would like to stay close to family or have family stay close to you. Many areas could benefit from family sized starter homes or retirement bungalows. It’s up to you to help shape the conversation.

See also: How to Add Value to Your Home

At the end of the process the community has a referendum to decide whether the plan goes ahead. If it does, you have just successfully shaped your community, turned your neighbourhood plan into local policy and helped to plan your local neighbourhood.

The National Federation of Builders is the construction industry’s longest established trade association. The NFB provides expert advice for members on legal, procurement, technical and government funding issues. Their range of services also includes their new ‘find a builder’ tool, which connects clients with trusted builders across England and Wales. For more information on the services provided by the NFB, please visit their website: builders.org.uk

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