Saturday, 7 February 2015

Building sustainable rural communities

In order to grow, it normally means you need to grow at someone else's expense:

The New Yorker

Instead, you could try and encourage community sustainability:

Big money on offer to boost local sustainability in Devon

30 January 2015
Once again, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) is calling for community projects across Devon to enter the Prince of Wales Award which comes with a £1,000 first prize.
The award is given each year to the project which the judges decide offers most in terms of reducing the drain on finite resources, improving the quality of life and giving local people the chance to get involved in doing something really worthwhile for their communities.
Previous winners have included Stokeinteignhead Community Shop, Sustainable South Brent and, last year, the Newton St. Cyres Community Support Group.

Big money on offer to boost local sustainability in Devon (From Smallholder)

But how do we 'measure' sustainability?

‘Bucolica’– measuring and managing the rural idyll 
5th February 2015
Is the countryside enjoying an economic boom (with more jobs, businesses and growth)? Are rural places becoming more or less sustainable? What does farming contribute to rural communities? And how might one measure the social benefits and value of farming? I
van Annibal and Jessica Sellick from Rose Regeneration joined the Yorkshire Agricultural Society on 3 February to present a paper on rural economies and the important role that farming plays in sustaining rural communities. 
Their presentation examined: (i) the key drivers of rural economies, (ii) some of the current pressures on farmers, (iii) the social, economic and environmental contributions farmers make to the sustainability of rural communities and (iv) how to measure the broader social returns of farming.
‘Bucolica’– measuring and managing the rural idyll - Arthur Rank Centre 

This is from 2005: the 'Bristol Accord':

EU Ministers strike a deal for sustainable communities.
Bristol Accord: Conclusions of Ministerial Informal onSustainable Communities in Europe

But, basically, the remit was just too 'wide-ranging':
Lost in Translation? – The Bristol Accord and theSustainable Communities Agenda

Looking at specifics, on the other hand...

To what extent can 'social enterprises' help?
Can social enterprise contribute to creating sustainable rural communities? – Using the lens ofstructuration theory to analyse the emergence of rural social enterprise.

Less academic, but no less specific, was a report from the Rural Coalition from 2010:

The Rural Challenge Achieving sustainable rural communities for the 21st century
In most rural towns and villages, community has always been more important than the state. Our report is not about central direction, the technicalities of new development, or the necessary size of investment in public services. In fact it is not about top-down rules and targets at all. 
To build the ‘Big Society’ in rural areas the greatest need is to answer the questions about how government at every level can empower rural communities – to manage and plan for business and residential growth in the countryside over time, to shape and take part in the delivery of services, and to meet the challenges of an age of austerity and climate change – in a way that is: 
● more sustainable (to meet the challenges of the environment, climate change and community cohesion); 
● more attractive (to address concerns about unattractive, badly planned developments gobbling up the green fields around historic rural communities); and 
● more flexible (to tackle the diverse needs and the challenges of tailoring services to small rural communities spread across huge geographical areas).
The Rural Challenge: Achieving sustainable rural communities for the 21st century

These proposals were made just as the new Coalition Government came to power: the question remains as to how much has been achieved under the 'localism agenda':

How should local authorities support sustainable rural communities?
6th March 2014
It is important to recognise the particular issues facing rural areas in terms of housing supply and affordability, and the role of housing in supporting the broader sustainability of villages and smaller settlements. This is clearly set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, in the core planning principles, the section on supporting a prosperous rural economy and the section on housing.
A thriving rural community in a living, working countryside depends, in part, on retaining local services and community facilities such as schools, local shops, cultural venues, public houses and places of worship. Rural housing is essential to ensure viable use of these local facilities.
Assessing housing need and allocating sites should be considered at a strategic level and through the Local Plan and/or neighbourhood plan process. However, all settlements can play a role in delivering sustainable development in rural areas – and so blanket policies restricting housing development in some settlements and preventing other settlements from expanding should be avoided unless their use can be supported by robust evidence.
The National Planning Policy Framework also recognises that different sustainable transport policies and measures will be required in different communities and opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary from urban to rural areas.

How should local authorities support sustainable rural communities? | Planning Practice Guidance

Meanwhile, some of the issues are highly political, when it comes to quantifying, if not qualifying, 'sustainable development':

Scotland: Breaking up the estates
The Scottish National party wants land reform to revive rural communities, but critics say the plan smacks of class war
5th February 2015
Lobby group Scottish Land and Estates has expressed “extreme concern” at the SNP call for ministers to have the as-yet undefined powers to intervene if the scale of land ownership and conduct of a landowner is judged to be a barrier to sustainable development.
Scotland: Breaking up the estates - FT.com

Ultimately, it's about breaking the vicious circle of rural decline:

Diagram showing the MEDC cycle of decline

BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Social and economic changes in rural areas in MEDCs
BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Sustainable rural changes in MEDCs

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