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Community Led Planning

Community Led Planning is a tried and tested approach that helps local people to explore the needs for their area, set priorities and plan actions. ACT supports communities to help them work through the process and realise their aspirations. Search for completed plans by district to the right of the page.

Community Led Planning has a number of important characteristics:

  • It is led, driven and resourced through grass roots action.
  • The people working on Community Plans are volunteers, usually a mix of parish councillors and other local people.
  • It involves extensive community participation and engagement using techniques such as questionnaires, meetings, discussions and events.
  • It results in a credible action plan based on in-depth consultation.
  • The action plan produced sets out how local problems and issues can be tackled. This will include actions which the community can undertake alone, and actions which they need to address in partnership with local authorities or other agencies.

Support and Resources
ACT can provide independent facilitation and guidance for Community Led Planning in Cumbria, based on national and local best practice. Click on the different areas below to see the service we can offer in your community:

Some of the actions in Community Plans will need to be delivered in partnership with other organisations and we recommend building a relationship with your Local Authorities from the start of the process to make this easier. What you can expect from Local Authorities in your area:

We also have a range of resources available to support communities through the process:

Guidance Sheets - A series of guidance sheets including an introduction to Community Led Planning, Consulting your Community, Writing your Action Plan, and Delivering your Community Led Plan. You may also find our more generic guidance sheets useful, covering topics such as Engaging with Young People, and Monitoring and Evaluation.

Questionnaire Design Guide - Being able to put together a survey which is easy to understand, and will give you the information you need, is a useful skill for any community group, particularly those doing Community Led Plans. This guide provides an introduction to writing questionnaires, the types of questions to avoid, how to ensure your survey is accessible to all, and how to analyse the results.

Case Studies - A range of written case studies from Dentdale, Bootle, and Melbreak Communities, plus video interview with representatives from Dentdale explaining why they decided to do a Plan, how they went about it, and what they have achieved.

Sustainable Communities Workbook - A discussion tool to help assess your community's sustainability and plan for the future using the eight key elements for a sustainable community identified in the 'Egan Wheel'.

Community Led Plans - Completed plans from across Cumbria. You can also search for plans by district using the links to the right of the page.

Contact us if you are interested in producing a Community Led Plan.


Community Led Planning Grants:

Community Led Planning groups can apply to ACT for a grant to support community consultation activity and production of the Plan. Contact us at ACT for more information and an application form. Amounts available vary between districts:

South Lakeland: Thanks to funding from South Lakeland District Council, groups can apply for up to £1,500

Eden: Thanks to funding from Eden District Council, groups can apply for up to £500 

Other areas: ACT still has limited funding for grants of up to £500

Neighbourhood Planning

Community Led Planning can cover anything which the community thinks is important. However in areas where local people have a specific interest in spatial planning, for example, where buildings should go and what they look like, or where open spaces should be protected, they could consider Neighbourhood Planning. Both process involve widespread community consultation and a Community Led Plan can form a good foundation for Neighbourhood Planning. The key differences are identified below:

Community Led Planning:

  • Sets out a vision for the future based on local consultation, with actions for how this can be achieved
  • Covers anything the community feels is important to them, from extra litter bins, community notice boards and websites, to affordable housing and transport.
  • Produces an action plan, owned and delivered by the community, with support as appropriate from local authorities and other agencies.

Neighbourhood Planning:

  • Focuses solely on spatial planning issues i.e. the use of land and buildings.
  • Is led by the community but requires expert professional advice and support (funding is available for this).
  • Is a statutory process involving external examination and assessment.
  • Produces either a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ to sit alongside existing planning policy with the local planning authority; a ‘Neighbourhood Development Order’ or ’Community Right to Build Order’ which grant planning permission locally without the need to submit applications to the local planning authority.

Neighbourhood Planning - A Summary gives a simple overview of the process of doing a plan, and the support available to parishes, written by Eden District Council and ACT.

Community Led Planning and Neighbourhood Planning is a simple guidance sheet explaining the differences between the two processes and how they can work together.

Eden Neighbourhood Planning Grant:
A small grant of £150 is available to communities in Eden considering Neighbourhood Planning. The purpose of the grant is to support community groups, engaging with their wider communities, to decide whether there is a need for Neighbourhood Planning in their area, and identify any initial local planning and development issues that they would like to address.

This initial consultation and project planning will be a good base from which the group can apply for additional national grant funding to fund the further work and professional advice likely to be required to complete plans. For more information read the guidance notes and application form.

This grant fund is managed by ACT and is funded by Eden District Council.

Community Emergency Planning

Some communities are choosing to think about how they would manage in an emergency by preparing a Community Emergency Plan. Although extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and heavy snow, are the most common emergencies which we face, there are a range of other emergencies that could occur within a community such as gas leaks, fires, and major traffic incidents. A plan helps people prepare for an emergency, organise neighbourly help during the incident, make appropriate links to emergency services and local authorities, and assists with recovery after the event.

For more information and guidance visit the Community Emergency Planning web page.

Eden Community Emergency Planning Grant:
A small grant of £150 is available to communities in Eden producing a Community Emergency Plan. For more information read the guidance notes and application form

This grant fund is managed by ACT and is funded by Eden District Council.


Valley plans

ACT has worked with the Lake District National Park Partnership to pilot an approach to Valley plans. These are plans that focus on a whole valley, water catchment area. The partners in the plan are the communities and the major agencies that affect the environment and services delivered there. Much like Community Led Planning, the community takes a lead in identifying its own priorities, while also being informed of the priorities of the partner agencies.

ACT piloted this approach in Borrowdale, Wasdale and Ullswater, working closely with the Lake District National Park who are continuing to develop this approach in Ullswater and have plans to work with other communities across the Park in the future.

Latest News

Help for Village Halls Managing Risks

1 May 2018

Help for Village Halls Managing Risks

ACTion with communities in Cumbria has been working with participants from seven village halls to design a Managing Risks Toolkit for the 300 plus halls across Cumbria.

The project aims to assist village halls to deal with the challenges of extreme weather events and other risks such as loss of income, issues within committees and other situations. It is funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and was awarded after Storm Desmond when a number of halls in Carlisle, South Lakeland and Allerdale were flooded.

Local charity supports community resilience across Cumbria

12 April 2018

Local charity supports community resilience across Cumbria

ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) is supporting community resilience and emergency planning activities across Cumbria, as part of a 3 year BIG Lottery funded programme. This includes helping people to get together to share their experiences, think about future risks and what they might do to be better prepared.

ACT celebrating 70 years - and appealing for images

5 April 2018

ACT celebrating 70 years - and appealing for images

ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) is 70 in October and using this milestone as an opportunity to celebrate the organisation’s past and also look to the future.

ACT’s Chief Executive Lorrainne Smyth says “We’ve changed our name several times in those 70 years, settling on ACTion with Communities in Cumbria back in 2008, but it is striking how little our aims, priorities and ways of working have changed since the beginning. We still rely on a core group of committed people as our staff and our Trustees and it’s still about making a difference by championing rural issues and working with communities.”

Thank you to everyone involved in Village Halls Week

26 January 2018

Thank you to everyone involved in Village Halls Week

Village Halls around the country have been celebrating the first national Village Halls Week between 22nd and 26th January. Here at ACT we’d like to say a huge thank you for all the work you do in your communities and to share a few of the highlights in Cumbria and around the country.

Cumbria celebrates national Village Halls Week

10 January 2018

Cumbria celebrates national Village Halls Week

ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) is encouraging village halls across the county to get involved in the first ever national #VillageHallsWeek starting Monday 22nd January 2018. This is a week-long celebration to say a collective “thank-you” to all volunteers who work tirelessly to keep community buildings and village halls open for the benefit of their communities.

Celebrating Award Winning Village Halls

13 September 2017

Celebrating Award Winning Village Halls

Volunteers from six Community Buildings around Cumbria were presented with achievement awards by ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) at their recent AGM. Over 50 people attended the event at Sedbergh People’s Hall, celebrating the enormous contribution which Village Hall volunteers make to the communities they serve.

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