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Local people are to have more of a say in the development of their area, including where houses, schools and businesses are built.

The government has announced a £23 million fund to help community groups to develop a neighbourhood plan, and applications for funding are now open.

Local groups will be able to access a range of free help including financial support and latest planning expertise from trained professionals, to guide them through the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Housing and planning minister Dominic Raab says: “Neighbourhood plans are a powerful tool to help communities shape their local area, making sure the right homes are built in the right places.

“It’s vital that communities have the right support and advice available to help deliver a plan that meets their own ambitious aspirations.

“That’s why I’m making £23 million available that will help more groups to do this.”

Over 2,300 communities across England have started the process of neighbourhood planning, with 530 plans approved in local referendums.

Previous government support has helped around seven out of 10 of these communities progress their plans, with 365 neighbourhood plans finalised using support provided by the government.

The maximum grant available has also been increased by £2,000 to £17,000, helping communities to access more resources to develop a plan for their area.

Community groups can find our more information about how to apply for funding via a new website at www.neighbourhoodplanning.org.