Cheshire East Council has decided to close its grant scheme which was set up to help communities create Neighbourhood Plans so they could establish local planning policy that is relevant to their communities and help shape local development.
The Council launched a programme of support for Neighbourhood Planning in July 2014 through which local town and parish councils could apply for a grant of up to £7,000 from Cheshire East Council to assist with the development of their neighbourhood plan.
The aim of the Neighbourhood Planning Grants Scheme was to support local councils with the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans, specifically to support the commissioning of technical support and specialist advice, community engagement and consultation and collating of necessary evidence.
It was reported at the December meeting of Wilmslow Town Council that Cheshire East Council had gone back on its earlier indication to provide income of £7000 in the current year to offset neighbourhood planning costs and that this item has now been removed from their projected 2016/17 figures.
It was noted that the loss of income would have the effect of reducing Wilmslow Town Council's general reserves at the end of the 2016/17 budget.
Councillor Gary Barton said that he was hoping to reverse this decision though and has requested that Wilmslow Town Council speaks with Cllr Rachel Bailey, Leader of Cheshire East Council, and Cllr Ainsley Arnold to discuss the particular situation of Wilmslow Town Council.
Speaking about the decision to cancel this scheme, Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "Cheshire East is a high-performing council which delivers value for money and more than 500 services every day to local people.
"However, it needs to find £100m to balance the books over the next three years because of significant cuts in central government funding and rising demand for services, especially adult social care support.
"The council is a great supporter of neighbourhood planning and over the past three years has sought to build a platform within Cheshire East for communities to meaningfully participate in the plan-making system here.
"We are making good progress on the Local Plan and will continue to support our town and parish councils to deliver plan-led development.
"The council was originally one of the frontrunner authorities that supported neighbourhood planning, to get it off the ground, and has continued to be part of this important tier of plan making ever since, launching it's own frontrunner scheme in 2014 to fund external consultancy support to the first 14 neighbourhood plans that came forward in the borough.
"Since then, the council has put in place a dedicated neighbourhood planning team, invested in a number of tools and guidance documents to ensure groups can minimise their costs, when employing consultancy support, and has directly provided high-value evidence to support neighbourhood plan policy development alongside providing professional guidance and support to groups across the authority.
"The council's input and investment in this important area of work now means that Cheshire East is one of the top five most active authorities in the country for neighbourhood planning – with 40 neighbourhood areas either designated or being consulted on and excellent progress being made by town and parish councils across the authority.
"While regrettable that the council has now closed the grants scheme, the work it has done to date has established an excellent platform for neighbourhood planning in Cheshire East and a network of neighbourhood planners that the council will continue to work with to develop neighbourhood plans and deliver sustainable development across the borough."