Right to Build – New fund released to boost key ‘Big Society’ programme

In conjunction with the more publicised ‘right to buy’, which has been established since Thatcher introduced the concept in the Housing Act 1980, this year saw the introduction of the ‘right to build’ through which communities could band together to circumnavigate the conventional planning system. Now in its third month of operation, the system has received a fresh boost of £17m.

The ‘right to build’ is a crucial part of the Government’s plans for a ‘Big Society’ and greater community involvement. The programme allows a community to join together as a corporate body in order to further the interests of the whole group. As long as this body can ensure the support of 50% or more of the local voters in a referendum and can demonstrate that the project will meet certain minimum criteria to ensure sustainability, they will be able to progress with a project without arduous planning.

This means that projects, large or small, ranging from substantial residential developments to simple community halls, children’s playgrounds to business facilities, can come into fruition without a long planning application. Each project is assessed individually on its merits and property developers can be involved.

The new injection of £17m will be administered by the Homes & Communities Agency and will be available exclusively to communities outside of London. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have stated that the funding is not to help with the financing of the actual project, but to aid with the initial stage of preparing a submission for a Community Right to Build Order. The DCLG said this could include consulting in the local area or developing the proposal and business case for the scheme.

A community charity, ‘Locality’, has also aided in the process by establishing a ‘support hub’ to provide advice and support to those considering making use of the scheme. A website (www.mycommunityrights.org.uk), phone line, seminars and one-to-one mentoring are in place. An ‘early bird’ bonus of £2000 has also been made available by the Government for communities that submit proposals by the end of March 2013.

Grant Shapps commented:

“For too long communities have had to use their energy fighting development they didn’t want rather then putting it to use bringing about the homes, shops and facilities they did. The Community Right to Build completely changes that and puts communities in the driving seat by ensuring they can bring about the development their neighbourhood needs.

“The funding and advice service being offered will provide a big boost to those communities eager to take up their Right and bring about change to their area. I would urge all communities to make use of this support to ensure they have the best chance to thrive in the future.”

More information on the ‘Community Right to Build’, including application guidance, can be found here.

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