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Blears to boost planning aid

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Hazel Blears reveals plans to increase the amount of money to help residents influence planning decisions to£4.5m

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has unveiled a staged increase in planning aid - which helps prepare community groups to lobby on planning applications and pay for planning expertise.

Following the doubling of planning aid funding from£1.7m in 2007-08 to£3.2m this year, the new announcement today will increase this to£4.1m in 2009-10 and£4.5m in 2010-11.

Cash to support local communities

Ms Blears said: "The planning reform bill currently going through Parliament will give people a fairer say through public consultation, and at planning inquiries. But creating opportunities for public participation is not enough by itself."

She added: "We need also to do more to support local communities and individuals, particularly those least able to put forward their case, with the advice and skills they need to engage effectively, which is where this new funding will provide direct help."

Free advice is available to all callers, along with more detailed help for eligible individuals and groups. Planning aid helps those on benefits, pensioners, or people whose household income is low. It also provides advice to small charities, voluntary and community groups, tenants' organisations, social enterprises and other not-for-profit businesses.

Planning issues covered range from planning applications and local authority planning policies to regional spatial strategies and national consultations.

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