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Community-Led Plan toolkit

The Community-Led Plan process enables communities to ask local people what they want and produce an action plan that helps people to take realistic and concrete steps towards the change they want to see. By bringing everyone together to think about what is needed, this tool highlights the skills and resources already available in the community, as well as identifying the gaps and the support required from others to make it happen.

What is a Community-Led Plan?

  • It is led, driven and resourced through action taken by people who live in the community.
  • The people working on Community-Led Plan are volunteers, usually a mix of parish councillors and other local people.
  • It involves lots of community participation using things like questionnaires, meetings, discussions and events.
  • It results in a credible action plan, based on in-depth consultation.
  • The action plan sets out how local problems and issues can be tackled. This includes actions which the community can deal with themselves, and actions which they need to address in partnership with local authorities or other agencies.

Community-Led Plans can cover anything which the community thinks is important. 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 a Neighbourhood Plan. Cambridgeshire ACRE and Greater Cambridge Shared Planning can provide support and advice on Neighbourhood Planning and other options available to communities.

The differences between a Community-Led Plan and a Neighbourhood plan are below:

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Comparison Community-Led Plan Neighbourhood plan
Also known as: Parish Plan Neighbourhood Development Plan
What does it cover? Covers anything the community feels is important to them, from extra litter bins, community notice boards and websites, to affordable housing and transport. It is a community-led initiative giving local communities power to prepare a planning document that will be part of the statutory development plan for the district and, therefore, can be used in deciding planning applications for a local area.
What is involved? Sets out a vision for the future based on local consultation, with actions for how this can be achieved. There are no statutory rules governing its preparation. There are national regulations setting out how to prepare a neighbourhood plan. It is led by the parish council with support from the local planning authority.  The plan must be subject to two formal public consultations. An examination is carried out by an independent examiner paid for by South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC). If successful at examination the plan will be put to a referendum in the local area and if the vote is in favour it will be made (adopted) by SCDC.
Who prepares it? The local community usually including the parish council. According to the national regulations it must be the parish council that prepares the plan but there is usually a steering group within the community that actually writes the plan.
What does it produce? Produces an ‘Action Plan’, owned and delivered by the community, with support as appropriate from local authorities and other agencies. Produces a ‘Neighbourhood Development Plan’ that sits alongside the Local Plan and has weight in determining planning applications in the local area. It is a statutory document.  
Average cost The average cost is £3,000. Grants are available including up to £2000 from South Cambridgeshire District Council's Community Chest Grants are available of up to £10,000 per plan. If a site is allocated in the plan or other criteria met, then an additional £8000 is available. Average cost is said to be £13,000.
Does it require a referendum? No. Yes.


There are three core principles that define a Community-led plan and make it different from other methods of community engagement:

Plans are owned, managed and led by the community

  • A Community-Led Plan means the community sets its own agenda and brings about positive change without waiting for others to get things done.
  • To make the most of a Community-Led Plan, your community must take the lead on creating and achieving the plan, working closely with your parish and town council (where you have one). People in your community will own the plan and take responsibility for making it work.

Everyone in the community should have an opportunity to get involved and have their say

  • A Community-Led Plan involves different people, groups and organisations when developing a plan. This will allow you to produce a high-quality plan that has the support of everyone locally and goes on to deliver actions that are based on a sound understanding of local needs and expectations.
  • The community will need to attract interest in making the plan, recruit volunteers to get things done, use a mix of different ways to speak to everyone locally and come to collective decisions about what actions should be done.

Actions are based on evidence and address a range of different issues important to your community

  • A Community-Led Plan can be used by your community to address a range of different social, economic, environmental and cultural issues.
  • The plan could aim to achieve anything (within reason) from organising regular litter picks, buying a defibrillator for a community building, through to setting up an environmental group.
  • A Community-Led Plan offers a structured process so your community can research the most important local issues and use this evidence to develop a detailed plan to bring about specific improvements.

What is the process?

The process to producing a Community-Led Plan toolkit was first put together by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) using the experience of Rural Community Action Network (RCAN) members.

The important points in developing a Community-Led Plan are:

Description of the steps needed for a successful Community-Led Plan


  • Get in touch with your nearest parish or town council.
  • Attract interest from the wider community in the possibility of producing a plan.
  • Make contact with a range of volunteers who might be able to help out in different ways.
  • Launch the Community-Led Plan. The best way is via a public event where people can learn about the process and consider getting involved.
  • Start your steering group. These people, who must be representative of your community, are essential for making sure that the Community-Led Plan keeps going even if interest begins to fade after the first event. It’s a good idea for a steering group to get a written constitution to tell people what it does, reduce the risk of misunderstandings and make it easier to apply for funding.
  • Establish your working group. Not everyone who wants to get involved in the plan has to be on the steering group. You might decide that as the plan progresses you need to set up separate working groups that can work on different issues as they come up. These could be things like designing and undertaking consultation activities and doing actions specified in the plan. Working groups do not need a written constitution but can write terms of reference which tells people what the group does and how they will do it.
  • Make sure you have enough funding, volunteers, information and support needed to continue with your plan.
  • Produce a Project Plan which sets out the work that needs to be done over the coming months to the point of finalising the plan. It can help you to think through what needs to be done when, and by who. The Project Plan can be done however you would like, but to make it easier we have provided an example template [XLSX, 18Kb] for you to download.
  • Email for further help on anything in this section.


  • Understanding your community is an essential part of a Community-Led Plan.
  • Gather existing facts and information about your local area to begin thinking about how you will achieve your plan. A good place to obtain local data is at Cambridgeshire Insight
  • Consult with your community as they will know the local area best. Remember to consider different ways you could use and which ones are the most appropriate for the people you want to involve.
  • Think about the different things that contribute to the wellbeing and sustainability of your community. In other words, what makes your local community a place where people want to live, prosper and be happy, both now and in the future. A questionnaire is always a good way to do this although there are other methods such as interviews, focus groups and webinars. We have developed a bank of questions you might want to use, please contact us at if you would like to receive this.
  • A sustainable community needs to have the right balance of economy, social interaction and environmental considerations. These points provide some elements you may wish to include in your consultation process and where information is available on our website links have been provided:





  • Make sense of the information you’ve already gathered. This will involve analysing the data. A good starting point is to categorise your data according to the elements needed for community wellbeing and sustainability, and look for common themes or issues.
  • Test your findings with the rest of your community and prioritise the most important actions. A good way is to put the data you have collected into a short report, present this to your community and ask the following questions:
    • Are people in general agreement with the evidence presented?
    • Is there anything missing?
    • Are there any themes or issues that you think are the most important?
  • Produce a draft plan which needs to tell anyone reading it what makes your community unique, how people value it and how it can be improved in the future. This should include an action plan which tells readers how specific issues will be addressed, by whom, with what resources and by when. We can provide examples of final plans if you need them.


  • If you have got lots of people’s opinions during the development of your plan, you should be confident that your draft plan is an accurate and fair reflection of everyone’s needs and expectations. However, you should give members of your community one last chance to comment on it.
  • Once everyone is happy with your plan, you can produce a Final Plan
  • Launch the plan it in a way that gains maximum recognition and support, and is likely to grab people’s attention – at weekends, during holidays or to coincide with other events in your community’s calendar.
  • Put the plan into action. Depending on the actions you have proposed, it could take several years to achieve everything your community wants to do. You will need to be clear about what needs to be done, and by whom, continually check progress and keep your community in the know to maintain momentum. This can be achieved by completing the actions one by one, not all at once, celebrating achievements as they happen, speaking with local media and supporting and recruiting new volunteers. This Action Plan can be done however you would like, but to make it easier we have provided an example template [XLSX, 22Kb] for you.
  • You will need to decide how your community will look at progress of individual actions. Decide if this will be the steering group or parish/town council and how often you need to meet.
  • Review your Community-Led Plan every few years to make sure it is up to date and still fits with the needs and aspirations of your community.

Support we can provide

We can provide advice and guidance for a Community-Led Plan in South Cambridgeshire, based on national and local best practice.

When you launch the project

  • Details of important contacts and other organisations/community groups.
  • Advice on setting up a Community Group
  • Help with recruiting volunteers
  • Help in bringing together community groups within your village.
  • Guidance sheets and templates/examples.
  • Helping to launch your plan at a public event.
  • Advice on how to set up an appropriate leadership structure.
  • Guidance on the selection and use of different consultation techniques.
  • Putting you in contact with other groups with Community-Led Plans.
  • Getting in contact with Council officers and other professionals who may be able to help with specific actions.
  • Community engagement toolkit.
  • Community action case studies.
  • Support to access grant funding including up to £2000 from South Cambridgeshire District Council's Community Chest Grant Fund.

Evidence and agreeing your plan

  • Help in finding evidence for your Plan.
  • Questionnaire guide/template. 
  • Comments on your consultation process and draft questionnaire.
  • Comments on your draft Plan.

Delivering your plan

We will also provide

  • Advice throughout the Community-Led Plan process by phone and email.
  • Visits to your group to answer questions and lead workshops.
  • Ongoing help with the specific actions where agreed, particularly where the community needs the support of external organisations, or has chosen to work with other Community-Led Plan groups to get things done.
  • Help with revisiting and refreshing old Community-Led Plans.
  • Helping with checking progress.
  • Reminders for when and advice about how to review your Plan.

What we would like from you, if you're willing to share

  • A named contact for your Community-Led Plan.
  • Updates from your meetings.
  • A copy of your project plan and budget.
  • If you’re not linked to your Parish Council, make contact with them and other agencies.
  • A copy of your draft action Plan.
  • A copy of your finished Plan.
  • Feedback about the action plan, including successes and challenges.

Recently completed Community-Led Plans

Contact Details