Development Plan

This module covers:

  • The practicalities involved in creating a plan.

You may think it’s far too early in the process to start creating a development plan but you need to begin thinking about a plan as soon as possible and continue growing and developing it throughout the lifetime of your project... and beyond! It is vital that your community benefit project focuses on what is required and desired in your community. This will dictate how much money you can and should administer, what kind of group you should set up, what legal and financial issues you may face in progressing the plan, and ultimately, what you spend the money on.

In some areas, there will already have been some work on community development. Be sure to ask your local authority if there has been any Local Development Plans or similar and look to other organisations for any other relevant reports regarding the area. Your Third Sector Interface could be a good starting point here. If you have few volunteers in your community, look to engage an external organisation, to help you write your development plan – contact Local Energy Scotland and we can help you find the best organisation in your local area. Suggest to the developer that they financially support this work.

How to identify your goals

In your initial consultations with the community, gauge opinion on what changes people would like to see in the community. If you have the time and resources, you can draw up a short questionnaire specific to your community. You can either hand out paper copies or run this online. Section 8 of the community energy toolkit has info on community consultation. For example:

  • What services are lacking?
  • Should there be a focus on particular age groups?
  • Could social cohesion be improved by renovating community-owned buildings?
  • What changes do you want to see in your community in the short- and long-term?
  • Would you prioritise the development of a service which provided energy efficiency advice to help all households in the community lower bills and reduce environmental impact?

You will need to interpret the results of these questionnaires, so keep it simple if you’re pushed for volunteer time at this stage. You can revisit this later with more specific questions.

Don’t be daunted by the term ‘development plan’. For some communities this will be an in-depth document analysing their local area’s needs, but it can start as a broad outline of the direction in which you would like to move. Remember, you want to focus on areas that are not your local authority’s responsibility.

Many communities will find that they spend the first few years’ payments on short-term projects, and then begin to look more widely at long-term investment. We strongly recommend that you think about this from the outset and look to invest in long term plans such as energy efficiency or even your own community renewable energy project.

The stronger your development plan, the more likely a developer will want to support it – they too want to see real change in the community!

The main points to consider are:

  1. What are the needs in your community and what evidence of these needs is there?
  2. What potential, realistic changes can you envisage?
  3. What actions & activities need to be undertaken to meet the needs and implement the changes?
  4. What are the costs of the actions?
  5. What are the short and long term priorities?

Who should be involved in the process?

This is likely to change as the project goes on. Reassure people that if they want to suggest ideas now, this doesn’t commit them to twenty five years of responsibility. Equally, if someone doesn’t have any ideas immediately, there will still be opportunities to get involved later on.

At the outset, all local community members and groups are stakeholders in the process. Think of what resources you have. For example, could you ask a local primary school or youth club to engage with surveying the community? Consider asking youth groups, sports clubs, OAP groups and arts/cultural associations what they feel their community is lacking. Try to cover all ages.

Try and get a group of interested people together and, at this early stage, all you need to do is get some interest in the community and look for recurring themes. Is there one big project that keeps being suggested? Don’t be put off doing anything; there’s always a way around things and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. It will be possible to look for match funding, or employing a member of staff to identify and implement changes.

The process

Your development plan can simply be a few ideas put together at this stage; it’s going to be the main theme that runs through the whole of your community benefit process. Community benefits aren’t about how much income you get but what you can achieve with that income. Your development plan should be constantly evolving and adapting to reflect the direction in which your community wishes to move.

Once you’ve sent out an initial questionnaire, try to compile the results yourself. This may be simply combining the various responses into one document or you can try to analyse the results a bit more – are there a variety of responses with a similar theme?

You may wish to put some clear targets in your development plan, for example:

  • “We aim to create a winter support group for 50 pensioners”
  • “We aim to bring at least one graduate to the area per year”
  • “We aim provide weekly educational activities for the youth sector”

These targets can be monitored and analysed as the project progresses (Module: Evaluation). The format and content of your development plan is likely to change moving forward.

Once you have some ideas together, you may wish to discuss these with the developer and look at how they could help you in achieving your goals.

Further resources

CARES support:

Development Trust Association Scotland:

Foundation Scotland:

Kirknewton Development Plan:

Lochaber Community Development Plan: