Speech by Jean Lambert MEP at the Westminster rally, 26/3/2007
The Sustainable Communities Bill is an important Bill and the Green Party is proud to support it.
We are now 15 years on from the Rio Summit on Sustainable Development when world leaders made important agreements on how to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The short definition of sustainable development!
Local action and participation was seen as a key ingredient in changing the world for the better – it’s that important! But local action needs to connect with national action and vice versa if it is to be really effective. This Bill makes that connection – so we support it.
In our increasingly globalised world, the local becomes increasingly important in terms of offering us a sense of place and a sense of belonging. We need to maintain and develop the ways in which people feel they can integrate and participate in community life to avoid further disintegration and its consequences for both individuals and society as a whole. Alone, we cannot overcome the challenges we face.
This Bill sets out 4 crucial elements for a sustainable community
Please forgive me not treating them in the drafting order.
I want to start with participation.
This Bill is important because it offers a way to bring people together and to be positive about what we want – that is a radical change. It demands proposition not just opposition. What are we for?
This Bill says set out what you want. If you can’t have it, Government has to say why not: this also means that Government has to look at what are the barriers, so this can drive further change at Government level.
Further reasons to support this Bill.
Social inclusion. Participation means involving all sectors of the community – not just the articulate, the confident and the rich. It means reaching the poor (who often literally don’t have the time or resources to get to meetings): the Anti-Poverty Network’s Research has shown that inclusion in decision-making is the number one demand for people experiencing poverty. We know that many women and older people live in poverty. It means including people of different ethnicities, ages: those with different access needs etc. Inclusion and real participation require resources and services.
Which is why the local economy and local services are important too. We know these are of crucial public interest and need. We recognise that universal access to high quality public services needs to be assured. Without this service infrastructure, our communities wither.
A sound environment is the fourth element and the proposed indicators in Schedule 1 are crucial.
More local food means fewer food miles, more local employment and more trust between consumer and producer. More local work and local facilities mean less need for car travel and more opportunities to cycle or to walk and to simply meet each other.
Climate change is seen as a threat but community action can be empowering and a positive way to manage inevitable change.
But sustainable communities don’t just happen. There is a lot of hard work involved – much of it unpaid and unrecognised.
Like you, the Green Party wants:
– a better environment
– thriving local services
– to tackle social exclusion
– and we need people’s participation and for local councils to get active and educated so that they really understand sustainability.
We need to unblock the barriers to local imagination and activity.
We need the Government to act now to actively support this Bill.