About sustainable development

Information about what sustainable development is, what sustainability is, what a sustainable community is, Sustainable Communities Act 2008, how the Act can help communities, and how to submit a proposal.

What is sustainable development?

"Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Source: Sustainable Development Commission.

The council's sustainable development team is made up of officers who lead on different areas of work including policy and partnerships for:

  • environmental management

  • climate change

  • biodiversity

  • coastal management

  • inland waterways.

Due to its cross-cutting nature, all council service areas have a role to play in delivering sustainable development, however, some teams have a particularly important role to play in helping the council work within the principles of sustainable development.

Some of the most important are as follows:

  • Asset strategy (for example, setting an approach for carbon reduction, managing our estates and our energy usage)
  • Countryside access team (for example, managing the council’s local nature reserves, leading a programme of countryside events)
  • Planning and development management (for example, nature conservation in the planning systems, hedgerows regulations, and tree protection)
  • Forward planning (for example, sustainable development policies in the local development framework)
  • Environmental control (for example, pollution incidents, monitoring of air quality)
  • Civil engineering (for example, comprehensive coastal monitoring programme)
  • Streetscene (for example, leading on waste collection and waste management policy).

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is closely tied to the principles of sustainable development. It involves considering economic, environmental and social factors equally when making decisions. For example, when building a new community centre it is best practice to avoid building on land that is important for wildlife, and considerations made to make the building energy efficient.

It would also be important to make sure the building is located so that it is accessible to the community who will use it and that the most cost-effective design is chosen. The community centre could also be used to support local businesses and other uses.

What is a sustainable community?

Sustainable communities are places in which people want to live, now and in the future, improving the quality of life for all whilst safeguarding the environment for future generations. They embody the principles of sustainable development – set out in the previous government’s sustainable development strategy 'Securing the Future' – at a local level. This means they:

  • enable people to live within environmental limits
  • ensure a strong, healthy and just community
  • help to achieve a sustainable local economy.

DEFRA - Securing the Future (external website)

‘Securing the Future’ defined a sustainable community as one which is:

  • active, inclusive and safe
  • well run
  • environmentally sensitive
  • well designed and built
  • well connected
  • thriving
  • well served
  • fair for everyone.

What is the Sustainable Communities Act?

The Secretary of State launched the Sustainable Communities Act on 14 October 2008 with an invitation for proposals to improve the sustainability of local communities. It begins from the principle that local people know best what needs to be done to promote the economic, social or environmental well being of their area, but that sometimes they need the Government to act to enable them to do so. It provides a channel for local people to ask the Government to take such action.

The Sustainable Communities Act, together with the ‘duty to involve’ included in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, aims to achieve higher levels of community participation in decision-making.

More recently the Act has been amended and is now part of the Government’s ‘localism’ and ‘big society’ agenda. Previously there were set periods during which applications could be received but now submissions can be made at any time. The Government sees the Act as a way to allow communities to remove barriers, mainly through its ‘barrier busting’ website:

Barrier Busting (external website)

How can the Sustainable Communities Act help communities?

The Sustainable Communities Act can help communities by providing a channel for local people to ask central government to take action to promote the sustainability of their area. The scope of the Act is very broad, covering economic, social and environmental issues. It does not limit the type of action that could be put forward, provided the action is within that broad scope.

The Act is designed to strengthen the role of communities. It provides a simple process by which the ideas generated by local communities are fed through their local authority to central government. As well as enabling local communities to make suggestions for central government action, the Act also ensures that communities are better informed about the public funding that is spent in their area. New ‘Local Spending Reports’ will provide quick and easy access to information about where public money is spent:

Consultation on developing local spending reports (pdf 98kb)

How do I submit a proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act?

Previously, proposals could only be made under the Sustainable Communities Act at specific times. However, following amendment to the Act, proposals can now be made at any time by the council or by communities via the Government’s barrier-busting website:

Barrier-Busting (external website)

The Secretary of State has formally invited councils to consult communities and ask for ideas about how the local area can be improved and try to reach an agreement with them about what can be done to make their ideas work. If a centrally imposed barrier is in place which prevents action locally, councils will be able to apply under the Sustainable Communities Act for action to be taken to remove this barrier.

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