WARNING: May contain opinions
Creating sustainable community’s
The following is a report I have compiled in an attempt to outline the creation of sustainable community throughout the UK. I have compiled this report to offer an alternative structure to those who wish to see a way forward. I appreciate that much of the report uses the tools supplied to us from the government and as such may be off putting to some, but desperate times need desperate measures and I for one am willing to use any and all means to achieve the much needed disengagement from the Corporate powers that threaten our very existence.
For the past fifteen years I have been involved in creating sustainable environmental projects on a local level. My main task has been the compiling of sustainable habitat projects involving all interested party’s. I (with others) have been instrumental in creating a local rivers trust, http://www.pembsrt.org/ set up to attract European funding (Objective 1 and 2). http://wefo.wales.gov.uk/programmes/20002006/objective1/?lang=en We have successfully attracted approximately one million pounds in funding for our local environment and have been instrumental in a wide ranging number of projects. This has involved liaising with all interested party’s, the creation of local focus groups and the compiling of local environmental action plans (L.E.A.Ps), http://archive.rec.org/REC/Publications/LEAP_Guide/default.html and the planning and implementation of large scale sustainable community habitat projects.
My experience has taught me that with effort it is possible to bring about structural changes that benefit all. Its not easy but it is certainly possible with the right approach. I would add that all I have done has been on a voluntary basis. I personally have been more than compensated in seeing the results of my efforts positivity impacting my local environment to the benefit of all concerned.
I see no reason why we (Occupy) can not use this same template to create local sustainable community’s so that we can indeed be the change we wish to see. It is with this in mind that I set out the outline plan below.
What is a sustainable community?
Responsibility of governments to create sustainable communities.
Claiming publicly owned land for the creation of sustainable community.
Creating local focus groups.
1. What is a sustainable community?
The Governments definition of a sustainable community is set out in their sustainable development strategy 'Securing the Future' – at local level. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/sustainable/government/publications/uk-...
Sustainable communities embody the principles of sustainable development – set out in the government’s sustainable development strategy 'Securing the Future' – at 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.
‘Securing the Future’ established four shared sustainable development priorities for the whole of the UK, one of which was sustainable communities. It defined a sustainable community as one which is:
active inclusive and safe
well designed and built
fair for everyone.
Local authorities, along with local partners, have the primary responsibility for achieving sustainable communities.
The idea of a 'sustainable community' is complex and far from easy to achieve. Councils must take a distinctive approach to the way that services are planned and delivered. This must go beyond professional or service 'silos' to address the area's social, economic and environmental goals together.
There are many examples of sustainable communities in the UK, I have listed some of them below: as well as some sites that promote sustainable living.
there are also examples of 'illegal' community’s that have managed to achieve planning consent on the grounds that they are sustainable. For instance: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1056637/Lost-middle-class-t...
2. Responsibility of governments to create sustainable communities.
The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 offered local authorities and their partners an opportunity to put forward proposals for achieving sustainable improvements in their area. The Local Government Association is managing this initiative. http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/sustaina...
In this Act they commit all local government to the support of sustainable communities throughout the UK.
The act offers a way for communities to put forward ideas to solve the problems that most affected them, with an obligation on government to respond either by removing the barriers or justifying why action was not possible. Support for the principles of the sustainable communities act has always been cross-party, and has the potential to bring state and citizen closer together: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/31/sustainable-commu...
3. Claiming publicly owned land for the creation of sustainable communities.
Community right to reclaim land: http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housingsupply/righttoreclaim/# This page provides information about the new Community Right to Reclaim Land. It will help communities to improve their local area by making information about land owned by public bodies more easily available, and help to ensure that underused or unused land owned by public bodies and some other organizations is brought back into beneficial use.
There are large tracts of land in the UK that are publicly owned by various governmental departments. A 2008 survey of Previously Developed Land estimated that 7,500 Hectares (about 18,500 acres) of publicly owned land, suitable for housing, was vacant or underused - the equivalent of about 18,500 local park football pitches. Finding out who owns this land or information about it has been difficult and getting your request heard to do something about it, even more so - until now.
Anyone can send a Request to the Secretary of State setting out why they think:
land or property covered by the Request process is under-used or vacant,
there are no suitable, consulted upon and publicly tested plans in place or likely to be put in place in an acceptable period of time; and
why the land should be disposed of in order to enable it to be brought back into use.
Public sector assets are worth an estimated £385bn, with almost two thirds owned by councils.
"This asset information also holds huge potential for local communities, offering at a glance way to find that new meeting place or rescue the derelict tennis court round the corner."
The purpose of this document is to highlight how local areas can better manage their assets and explain how Government will help. It is intended to stimulate local authority led action. http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/capasset...
And for the city dwellers: One-in-seven shops on the UK's high streets stood empty last year as further closures loom in 2012. Around 48,000 premises are vacant. http://www.channel4.com/news/spiral-of-decline-for-uk-town-centre-s... remember the UK councils are obliged to consider sustainable plans forwarded to them from any community. Ours included.
Creating local focus groups
A focus group is an organized discussion with a group of individuals to understand
their views and experiences of a project, activity or a topic. Focus groups can be
used as a substitute for interviews, to understand experiences, learning, expectations
and impacts of being involved in a project.
Focus groups should be held at a convenient time and location for all those invited,
and should, ideally, be recorded and transcribed.
I have been involved in many Focus Groups over the years they are a fundamental tool in approaching councils and government departments with comprehensive all inclusive project plans. It is, in my experience very difficult to ignore a well structured, well thought out plan forwarded by a committed local focus group. It is also a good way to bring all the relevant agency’s/partners together under one banner. In a sense we already run (through mumble) focus groups. We simply need to formalize certain meetings into a form that is acceptable to government.
5. forming partnerships
Out-reaching: forming ties and relationships with like minded organizations and individuals on a local level produces all inclusive partnerships that adds weight to the proposals forwarded by the focus groups. I have chaired focus groups that have comprised of up to twelve separate agency's plus land owners, local clubs, businesses, and donors. And have still achieved the aims of the group. Its not easy, but with the right consideration for all involved much can and has been achieved.
6. Attracting funding
Although I haven’t attempted to attract funding for a sustainable community project. I have been successful in attracting funding for many environmental projects. Its my experience that there are many sources of funding available. From direct funding of projects to match funding of volunteers time. There are many sources of funding for sustainable communities and I have listed a few. It all depends on the scale and locality of the project. There’s a lot of money sitting within organizations just waiting for the right idea to come along.
A well thought out and all inclusive sustainable community project is the last thing the corporate powers expect of us. The government has left the door open and in my opinion we would do well to stick our foot in and gain access to our right to a sustainable world that is of our making.
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