What is Community-led Planning?

Local people know their places best. Sounds like an obvious statement, but planning has historically been “done to” communities, rather than been led by communities. Community-led planning is all about local people and community groups taking the lead on planning how services, amenities, opportunities for employment or education, public transport, healthcare, social activities, the use of land and buildings and more can best work together to improve our places.  

Sometimes this process is referred to as “Placemaking”, but following feedback from community groups leading on plans for their local area, we have chosen to refer to it as “Community-led Planning” – it does what it says on the tin! 

Is this a new thing? 

No! Communities have been developing community-led plans for their areas for a long time, often referred to as Community Action Plans. Essentially these set out a programme of community-delivered projects, often to inform the use of a funding stream such as renewable energy community-benefit payments.   

The foundation of any community-led plan is wide and inclusive community engagement, to draw out the community priorities for action and also the good things about our places which form an important part of our sense of belonging and community. 

What is new is that community-led plans are now written into planning legislation in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. 

Local Place Plans

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced Local Place Plans, although they weren’t officially launched until January 2022. 

These are primarily intended set out community aspirations for the use of land and buildings, and so to inform the Local Development Plan. Once registered with the local planning authority (Scottish Borders Council) they form a “material consideration” in planning applications. 

Do we need a Community Action Plan and a Local Place Plan then?

Not unless you want to! These two types of plans can essentially be the same thing or you can stick with a Community Action Plan.  It’s your choice. 

Combining these into one plan can have multiple benefits: 

  • Reduced risk of engagement fatigue (on behalf of those responding and those undertaking engagements!) 
  • A collaborative approach to planning has the greatest potential to lead to a collaborative approach to delivery (some elements of the plan may fall within the remit of the Scottish Borders Council, but other projects can be best delivered by community anchor organisations, such as Development Trusts, or set out business opportunities). 
  • Funding for community-led projects is available for projects which form part of a community-led plan for a local area. One plan can have a wider consensus and therefore make a stronger funding case. 
  • Taking an existing Community Action Plan as a live document which is updated following community engagement to form the basis of a Local Place Plan recognises previous community-led planning and builds on priorities the community has already expressed. 

What are the requirements for a Local Place Plan to be registered?

 Essentially they must include: 

  • A spatial or map based element with clear and recognised boundaries (usually Community Council areas). 
  • Regard for the Local Development Plan, the National Planning Framework (NPF4) and the relevant Locality Plan. 
  • Involvement of a community body such as a Community Council or Development Trust in its development and registration of the plan by such an organisation.

Please check out our guidance page for more details and the link to find official guidance from SBC.