PARISH and town councils have welcomed a programme to help people develop their own neighbourhood plans.
Neighbourhood planning groups will find full details about the new 2-year programme from 15 April on the My Community Rights website.
Communities will be able to submit applications for support and grants from 1 May, with the first payments and direct support packages expected to be agreed the same month.
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC), which represents 9,000 local councils and their 80,000 local councillors in England, said it firmly believed giving people more power over what happens in their local communities.
The £9.5million fund will support local councils and communities in creating neighbourhood plans to shape development in their area, such as the location of new housing and businesses.
Local councils and communities seeking to create a neighbourhood plan will be able to bid for up to £7,000 each to contribute to the costs of preparing their plan.
A separate funded neighbourhood planning advice and guidance programme - run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and NALC - will end on 31 March 2013.
NALC chief executive John Findlay said he hoped to see that adequate provision was in place to support local councils and communities with the development of their neighbourhood plans.
"We welcome that the government continues to see the importance of neighbourhood planning for local councils and communities.
"Neighbourhood planning goes to the heart of localism in action, where we see local people take control over their environment.
"Our partnership with CPRE has been very productive. It has provided an innovative package of support to local councils, based on a blend of professional planning advice and practical methods.
"This is stimulating informed self-help on the part of our local councils. We hope the new contract will retain this philosophy, which is central to effective neighbourhood planning.
"Our county associations have played an important role in the programme working with CPRE's local branches and we've appreciated their help and support."
Rory Stewart MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on local democracy said he was delighted the government had responded to calls from parish and towncouncils and bodies such as NALC to continue to provide support to communities who wanted to develop a neighbourhood plan.
"As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on local democracy, we particularly welcome direct funding to local councils.
Mr Stewart added: "Now more communities up and down the country can access the help and support they need to follow in the footsteps of Upper Eden's local councils."
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