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Review of Sustainable Communities Plan

3 February 2004


The Sustainable Communities Plan must be implemented in ways which minimise damage to the environment and maximise social cohesion, says the Sustainable Development Commission.

As the first anniversary of the Plan approaches on 5 February, the Commission is today publishing a review by one of its members, Professor Anne Power of the LSE.

The Commission's Chairman, Jonathon Porritt, said:

"There's no doubt that the Sustainable Communities Plan represents our best bet for establishing both the principles and practice of sustainable regeneration in England today - at a sufficiently large scale to make a real difference. But there's a long way to go to turn the Plan's aspirations into reality. What we've got to do now is to accelerate our commitment".

The Commission proposes four key measures of sustainable communities:

- how we plan and design where we live, at what density and with how much open space;

- how much energy we use and what impact our demands make on the environment;

- how we develop jobs and skills to ensure economic prosperity; and

- how we manage neighbourhood environments and support communities.

The Commission raises some critical issues for i the Plan's fundamental sustainability. These include the need for:

- much higher levels of energy efficiency in existing and new homes;

- incentives to re-use rather than replace buildings, with tighter controls on building waste;

- resources to improve transport links to areas of abandoned housing;

- refurbishment of historic areas instead of large-scale clearance;

- exploiting the capacity of small sites in high-pressure areas, especially to provide highdensity, affordable housing for small households.

'If we succeed in this,' claims author Anne Power, 'we will conserve land, protect green spaces and enhance the cohesion of our cities, towns and villages. Our children will inherit communities worth living in.'

The review is published jointly by SDC and the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.

Editor's notes

The Sustainable Development Commission is the independent government advisor on sustainable development, reporting to Tony Blair and the Devolved Administration leaders. The Commission's objectives include advocating a compelling vision of a sustainable economy and society, and reviewing how far sustainable development is being achieved in the UK across all sectors.

Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life while ensuring that the natural resources on which they depend are maintained and enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

The Commission recently published a report Mainstreaming Sustainable Regeneration - a call to action. This identifies a number of projects which put into practice our principles of sustainable regeneration and makes recommendations for moving this to the mainstream of regeneration activity.

The Sustainable Communities Plan was published by the Deputy Prime Minister on 5 February 2003. The key feature is the proposal to channel development towards four main growth areas: Thames Gateway, Ashford (Kent), the London-Stansted corridor and Milton Keynes. It is available on the ODPM website http://www.odpm.gov.uk/communities/index.htm

The Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) is an ESRC Research Centre, core-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council since October 1997. CASE is a multi-disciplinary research centre located within the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economic and Related Disciplines (STICERD) at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In October 2002 CASE began work on a second five-year programme of research. The core research programme is divided under a number of inter-related headings:

- generational and life course dynamics
- poverty, local services and outcomes
- the dynamics of low income areas
- the CASE neighbourhood study
- education and social exclusion
- social networks and social capital
- employment, welfare and exclusion
- policies, concepts and measurement

Under these headings we aim is to understand the dynamic processes at work within the areas of study and to investigate the individual characteristics and social institutions which prevent exclusion, and promote recovery, regeneration and inclusion.

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