Photo: attending a meeting about community projects

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. You can see completed plans on the Community Led Plans 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.

What we provide

When you launch the project:

  • Details of relevant contacts at Local Authorities and other key agencies.
  • Guidance sheets and video case study.
  • Support to access grant funding.
  • Evidence for your plan
  • Questionnaire guide
  • Comments on consultation process and draft questionnaire.
  • Action plan writing
  • Comments on your draft action plan.

Delivering your plan

  • Signposting to sources of information or funding. • Your action plan added to county CLP database.
  • Finished Plan on the ACT website.

We will also provide

  • Advice throughout the CLP process by phone and email.
  • Grants towards the cost of producing your plan.
  • We can also come out to meet your group, answer questions and deliver workshops on
  • Consultation and Action Planning.

What we need from you

  • A named contact for your CLP and to be copied in to notes from all CLP meetings.
  • For you to plan and budget for the production of your CLP.
  • For you to contact key officers in Local Authorities and relevant agencies at start of process.
  • For you to use at least three different ways of consulting people in your community.
  • For you to share your draft action plan with ACT and specific contacts at the district and county council, and any other relevant organisations.
  • A copy of your finished plan.
  • Feedback from you about delivery of your action plan; successes, challenges etc.

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.

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 processes 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.

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. Contact ACT for more information.

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 page.

Eden Community Emergency Planning Grant

A small grant of £150 is available to communities in Eden producing a Community Emergency Plan.

A further grant of £150 is available to communities with a Community Emergency Plan, to be better prepared to deliver it.

Contact ACT for more information.

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 have developed this approach in Ullswater and have plans to work with other communities across the Park in the future. See these Guidance sheets on Community Climate Change:

Community Climate Change Adaptation 2013

Adapting to climate change in Ullswater 2013

Adapting to climate change in Ullswater (Print) 2013

Adapting to climate change in Ullswater (Web) 2013

What people say about ACT

  • Wealth of experience in community development and working with people to give them a voice and influence change for the better.

    Kellie Bradburn-Sims

    Cumbria County Council

  • The support that is given to local communities and good advice

    Peter Lawes

    Setmurthy Parish Hall

  • Community advice

    Tyson Norman

    Gosforth Parish Council

  • Community Planning Advice/Community Led Housing support

    Roe Baker


  • Interaction. Information sharing

    Michael McVeigh

    Copeland Borough Council

  • they give communities a voice, and opportunities to discuss issues that are affecting their lives

    Paula Allen

    Lake District National Park Authority

  • Work with communities, encouraging participation and empowering people

    Diane Ward

    Copeland Borough Council

  • The wealth of knowledge and understanding of communities

    Emma Bundock

    Allerdale Borough Council

  • Engaging with communities.

    Lyz Turner-Dow

    Animal Concern Cumbria

  • You understand and welcome active partnership working to ensure the council is able to ethically and genuinely engage with our communities on projects, initiatives and community planning.

    Julie Betteridge

    Copeland Borough Council

Relevant Resources

Guidance Sheets

Toolkits & Workbooks

  • Guide To Funders 2023

    Funders guide for village halls and other community groups. Lists many funders supporting community projects in Cumbria.

  • 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.

  • Sustainable Communities Workbook

    A discussion tool to help assess your community's sustainability and plan for the future.

Case Studies


Dentdale Parish Plan Nov 2011

Parish council led Plan.