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Mainstreaming Sustainable Regeneration

9 December 2003


Sustainable regeneration has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream, and the Government must take a stronger lead to ensure its success, says a new report, published today (8 December 2003) by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).

The report, 'Mainstreaming Sustainable Regeneration', marks the end of an 18 month
investigation by the SDC into how neighbourhood regeneration can be made more sustainable.

The Commission, which advises Government on improving quality of life while ensuring that impacts on the environment and communities are minimised, concludes that the concept of sustainable regeneration - ensuring simultaneously positive social, economic and environmental outcomes - is already recognised and accepted by a large number of individuals and projects.

The challenge now is to mainstream sustainable development from the margins of regeneration

The SDC combines the UK Government's sustainable development objectives with its own principles to identify three core criteria it believes are essential for sustainable regeneration:

1. Putting local people at the heart of the process, engaging them as active and
proactive participants, in order to combat social exclusion, strengthen communities and
encourage more equitable economic development.

2. Improving the quality of the local environment whilst aiming for positive impacts or minimising negative impacts on resource use and the earth's natural systems.

3. Taking an integrated and long-term approach that recognises that neighbourhood problems have complex interlinked social, economic and environmental causes.

From these core criteria stem ten key action points for UK Government that would help mainstream sustainable regeneration in practice. These points include putting sustainable development principles and local people at the heart of regeneration policy and practice, ensuring employment programmes that are part of regeneration programmes support new training programmes in local environmental management, and integrating Government environment and resource priorities and targets into neighbourhood regeneration programmes.

For these action points to succeed, the SDC calls upon the Deputy Prime Minister, other Whitehall Ministers and Ministers in the Devolved Administrations to review their regeneration strategies in the light of these recommendations, and to agree and publish action plans by July 2004.

The SDC also calls upon the Audit Commission, the Auditor General for Wales, Audit Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Audit Office to further their interest in regeneration, housing, community well-being and sustainable development by reflecting these conclusions and recommendations in their work.

Publishing the report, SDC Chair Jonathon Porritt says: 'We offered a vision for sustainable regeneration at the 2002 Urban Summit, which resonated with many people. Since then we have drawn on the experience of policy makers, practitioners and community organisations across the UK. We share the belief that we must move beyond a social justice approach, to integrate social, economic and environmental goals in a new way - to sustainable regeneration.

'The report now presents government with a major challenge: to move sustainable development from the margins of regeneration activity to the mainstream.'

To download a copy of the report, visit the Sustainable Development Commission's website:

The Sustainable Development Commission is the Government's independent sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the Devolved Administration leaders. SDC'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.

For further information on the SDC, visit: www.sd-commission.gov.uk. The Public Enquiry number is: 020 7238 4995

The ten recommendations set out in the SDC report are:

1. Sustainable development principles should be at the heart of regeneration policy and practice, thus ensuring that regeneration has environmental as well as economic and social justice outcomes.

2. Local people should continue to be at the heart of the process. Effective community involvement and development is essential for successful regeneration. This is just as true for sustainable regeneration. Sustainable regeneration helps highlight the need for good community involvement and development, including local businesses partners and voluntary organisations. The next generation of community leaders should be fostered
through training programmes and in schools.

3. Training strategies for economic development, regeneration and planning should address the lack of understanding of sustainable development, and the shortage of skills needed to deliver sustainable regeneration. Government should ensure that the Regional Centres of Excellence for Urban Regeneration prioritise sustainable development in all of their capacity building work with professional, councillors and community leaders.

4. Improving the quality of the local environment whilst minimising negative impacts of resource use should be part of the strategic aims of every regeneration programme and partnership. Government should require neighbourhood regeneration programmes to undertake a review of the local environment including the impact of external pollution and other issues of environmental justice.

5. Government environment and resource priorities and targets should be integrated into neighbourhood regeneration programmes, particularly:

♦ Climate change and carbon emissions reduction
♦ Waste management
♦ Sustainable transport networks
♦ Water supply and flood management issues
♦ Green space strategies which consider accessibility, connectivity, community
benefits and ecological function, as well as design and aesthetics.
♦ Sustainable construction.

6. An integrated and long-term approach should be built in from the start, including the involvement of environmental agencies in partnerships, environmental assessment and whole life costings. Within government, cross-departmental targets should be set and regularly reviewed jointly as part of the development of plans and policies.

7. Housing and construction should be regarded as major opportunities to embed sustainable development in regeneration and in particular to make a significant contribution to carbon emission reduction. There should be regular reviews of building regulations and construction processes to ensure that both social rented and private developers are required to incorporate full energy efficiency measures, use sustainable energy, reduce
waste and pollution, include low toxin materials and promote the responsible use of natural resources.

8. The planning system should contribute through insistence on higher densities in urban areas, on full environmental assessments before demolition programmes are undertaken, and on integrating public transport into development plans. Planners need to be more proactive in promoting sustainable development.

9. Employment programmes that are part of regeneration programmes should support new training programmes in local environmental management, (including recycling, energy conservation and renewables). Neighbourhood management vehicles should be created with a focus on maintenance, security, local services, community links - all of which create front-line jobs.

10. Existing good practice should be built upon and exchanged, both at a government (e.g. Housing Corporation/Communities Scotland) level, and at a neighbourhood level. Good practice in sustainable regeneration should be rewarded and given higher profile for example, through DPM Awards.

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