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Community Led Planning

Community Led Planning

Community Led Planning enables communities to research and debate the needs and aspirations of their area, and take responsibility for making things happen.

Community led Planning can operate at different levels and be called a number of things. A process can be defined as community led planning when the community itself is involved in taking action to develop and implement a ‘Vision for how their community can be better’.

There are a lot of organisations and councils who are supporting communities who participate in community led planning across Hampshire.

For more information please contact


Community Led Planning Checklist

This checklist provides a summary of issues to consider when developing your community led plan and is intended for use by those facilitating or running a community led planning process .More detail is available in the Parish and Community Planning Toolkit available from Community Action Hampshire

The vision that is developed should

  • Be balanced and seen to be representing, as far as possible, the priorities of the whole community.
  • Identify and focus on the most important priorities for those communities

Remember that the issues coming out of the community led plan need to be endorsed by both the community as a whole and by those organisations from whom you may need help and support. E.g. Parish, District/Borough Council, County Council, National Park Authorities.

Step one: Getting started and ‘setting up’

This stage is about setting the scene effectively; getting the right people involved in the right way and planning the process. The actions should be as follows :-

  1. Initially, an open community meeting should be held to explain the purpose of this activity and get support from the community for the process.
  2. The creation of a representative steering group to co-ordinate the work
    • Identify which people / groups need to be on board and therefore should be involved
    • Get them on board with the process in different ways either actually on the steering group or assisting at key stages (i.e. to act as Community Champions on certain issues).
  3. Obtain support
    • Consider / explore what support is available from District/Borough; County; Community Action Hampshire (CAH)
    • Explore what funding support may be available: CAH can advise on funding sources
  4. Develop a process plan
    • Study examples of successes from elsewhere
    • Establish a clear process, including steps and realistic timescales
  5. Involve elected Members
    • You need to encourage the active involvement of the local Councillors from Parish/Town, District and County Councils at an early stage ( in most areas of Hampshire there are 3 levels of local government each with particular responsibilities). They will be critical when developing balanced and realistic expectations and are able to access appropriate support at each level of local government.
    • They may not be able to attend every meeting but they need to be involved at key stages such as when decisions are being made and priorities set
    • Their support and guidance will help to ensure that your project plan takes account of all the issues raised by your community.

Step 2: Establishing the issues and analysis

This is the main involvement stage. At the end of this stage you will have some clear and well understood priority issues and areas for action that are the key ones which will make a difference to your community.

The action plan should be as follows :-

  1. Identification of information that currently exists: The following sources are useful :-
    • Consultation results from local District / Parish and even County Councils
    • Demographic information about the make up of your community (information of this kind can be found at )
  2. Go directly to your community to establish issues using more open ended techniques to start with including
    • Questioning people about what they like/dislike about their community / Love/Hate surveys
    • Using simple questionnaires to get a representative sample based on open questions to avoid leading them.
  3. Develop appropriate approaches for consulting with all sectors of your community. Use different approaches with different individuals/ groups  
  4. It is critical not to establish issues solely on the views of a few people as you need good evidence to support what the real priorities are. Make sure you include:
    • Schoolchildren, young people, families, businesses, older people, disabled people, community groups, black, minority and ethnic groups
    • Use existing groups and structures
    • Use cameras to take photos of what they like/dislike,
    • Help young people to develop their own survey, videos, youth forum
    • Hold drawing competitions about what they like/dislike about the community
    • Hold discussion groups
    • Hold face to face interviews for those that cannot get out
    • Decide how to approach the vulnerable people and minority groups in your community

Once all the information is collected :

  1. Collate information by different groups (ages etc) so you can analyse it. That way you can see any patterns or gaps
  2. Analyse the initial information to identify:
    • Broad themes / trends and issues you want to explore further
    • Issues that may be raised by vulnerable minorities as well as numerical majorities
  3. Undertake further less open ended consultation to:
    • Clarify the real issues where these are not clear
    • Identify the real priorities

Things to remember during this part of the process

  1. Keep the focus on establishing the issues and not the solutions:
  2. Make sure the Councillors are involved in:
    • Helping with the consultations if they have time
    • Helping with ideas about who to consult and how
    • Assisting you to ensure you are really focussing on the issues for the community from the evidence.
  3. Try to understand and keep in mind the wider context of your issues. Your Councillors will be able to help with this.

Step 3: Project/action planning

When you write your action plan it will have 2 sections covering a list of issues which have come back with broad support from any group or the whole community.
These need to be split into 2 groups - prioritise the issues on both lists

Section 1 - The issues the community itself could potentially resolve / or action.

Section 2 - The issues for which the community would need help / support / advice.

Involving the community as much as possible, resolve how these projects are to be taken forward.

Identify . . .

  • Actions
  • Timescales
  • Responsibilities
  • Intended Outcomes
  • Who from the community is leading each project

Discuss the issues listed in section 2 with your elected member and clarify any details.

Ensure your issues and plans are endorsed by your elected members

Some of the issues may prove to be long-term/ intractable problems and need to be recognised as such.

Outline the issues and why they are a priority for your community


  • which councillors actively supports each priority
  • who from the community is leading the project
  • timescale for feedback on progress:

Step 4: Keeping every-one informed

  • Plan follow up sessions and treat the Action Plan as an evolving document that can monitor progress of longer term issues.
  • Make sure you think about and plan how you will report back to the community about this progress and successes along the way.
  • Be realistic about progress and timetables
  • Involve anyone who is interested including new participants.
  • Keep conversations with the Councillors (all tiers) alive by keeping them updated too.
  • Make sure that the community is keeping an eye out for new issues and feeding them in to the process

What are the benefits?

Benefits to the community

Although historically communities have often felt dependent on public services to deliver the basic things which make a difference to their quality of life, communities can become much more active in resolving their own problems. In fact often they themselves are key to doing this.

Communication and working together with those that deliver public services and support in the area can also have positive effects for both sides by helping them to understand each other better and so improve relationships. It can

  • Help public services to understand the needs of their communities better
  • Help communities to know how to seek support without creating dependency
  • Help communities to understand the pressure public services are under to manage their resources effectively; the conflicting demands they often experience and therefore why they have to have priorities

The process itself enables communities to work together to solve their own problems where they can, especially the smaller more local issues that are unlikely to be recognised as a priority at a higher level.

Benefits to Councillors

The community led planning process should give Councillors an opportunity to get to know their communities needs and priorities.

It also gives them the opportunity to support those needs and make a difference to improving the quality of the lives of the people they represent.

Benefits to organisations that support the process

Community led planning can provide information about particular communities which is invaluable, and when incorporated with a technical assessment will provide an understanding of local and strategic priorities.



Focusing too much on producing a document:

  • Community led planning is a process, not a document, and it is the process itself that delivers the full benefit of outcomes for the community.

Getting hijacked by loud voices

  • There are always some people in any community who are very clear and vocal about their needs and issues. The challenge of a good community led planning process is to find out the needs and issues of those who do not shout so loud as well. Particular attention needs to be paid to the vulnerable or marginalized who may not know how to express their needs.

Rushing the process

  • Not allowing sufficient time to access all the evidence will reduce your ability to produce a credible action plan so that what you end up with is a wish list that has little influence on the decisions of funders and service providers. .

Jumping too quickly to solutions

  • People often try to explain a problem they have by telling you what they think the solution should be. It is important to try and get to the real issues and make sure you understand them well before you try to resolve a particular problem .

Failing to involve elected Councillors

  • Although there may be many things that can be achieved by the community itself there will also be issues where help or action will be required  from local Councils and other organisations. It is important to involve those whose support may be crucial to getting that help. Locally elected members can give a lot of support and advice in this area. They often have information you may need about what has already been tried and what is possible.

Running out of steam

  • If you fail to keep the process alive by updating people and getting new people involved it is easy for those people who started the process to flag or for the whole thing to become reliant on one person whose circumstances mean they suddenly cannot do it any more. Always encourage people who are motivated by specific themes and actions to get involved. Communicate with everyone on the good news stories and what is happening if things take time.

Making an action plan that is stuck in time

  • The action plan (often called the Community Plan) needs to be seen as a live document and should be reviewed and updated regularly.

  • Nominate a key individual who is going to take responsibility for each action and make it their job to report on how it is progressing.

Missing quick wins

  • There will be some issues which are not the highest priority but could actually be resolved with minimal effort - Achieve these first as they will make a difference in the shortest space of time. Tell people about them to keep them interested as some actions are bound to be more long term

Thinking too short term

  • In a world dominated by external economic and environmental influences, the development of the plan should take account of the longer term vision and look at the barriers and opportunities that may arise in the future.


Advice and support

There are a range of organisations who will give you support as well as advice in relation to community led planning.
This includes a number of District and Borough Councils who are active in supporting community led planning

  • Community Planning
  • Action with Communities in Rural England
  • Community Action Hampshire
  • The comprehensive resource for Community Led Planning
  • The Hampshire Association of Local Councils
  • Winchester City Council
  • Test Valley Borough Council
  • East Hants District Council
  • New Forest District Council
  • Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council
  • Hart District Council
  • Hampshire County Council – for Market Towns


Community Planning Introduction

What is Community Planning?

What's in it for me?