Good news for your greener community – the Sustainable Communities Act Amendment Bill becomes law.
Woods and trees are a key part of what makes a genuinely sustainable community so we’re delighted to see the Sustainable Communities Act Amendment Bill become law.
As a member of the LocalWorks coalition, we have been lobbying with many other partners to see this Bill enacted during the ‘wash-up’ period before Parliament dissolves for the election. It had looked as though time would run out before the election countdown began but it had such strong cross-party support the Government granted it the necessary time needed and it is now law.
The original Sustainable Communities Act gave the government a legal duty to ‘assist local authorities in promoting the sustainability of local communities’. Under it councils are invited to make proposals to central government as to how it can help them do so. Furthermore, the Act specifies that local authorities cannot these make suggestions to central government without involving ‘local people’. Councils must set up (or recognise if they already exist) ‘panels of representatives of local people.’
This Amendment to the Act creates on ongoing rolling programme for communities to submit proposals to government for the improvement of their area, building on the spirit of the original Act and unblocking some of barriers that councils faced by restricting the timescale. It also enables associations of parish councils to be directly involved in the process.
‘Sustainable communities’ are defined in that Act under 4 categories:
1. local economies, e.g. promoting local shops, local businesses, local public services and local jobs
2. environment, e.g. promoting local renewable energy, protecting green spaces
3. social inclusion, e.g. protecting local public services and alleviating fuel poverty and food poverty
4. democratic involvement, e.g. promoting local people participating in local decision making
What the Amendment Act ensures is that the original suggestions put forward to the Secretary of State and acted on will not now be one-off events but part of an ongoing process of communities putting forward suggestions for improvement to government.
Our vision at the Woodland Trust is of a doubling of native tree cover with all the varied benefits that will bring. Working with communities to improve their surroundings is a key part of achieving that and as we move forward into the new Parliament, the degree of cross-party consensus around the Act is very heartening.
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