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To What Extent Building ‘Sustainable Communities’ Benefits to Regenerate Neighborhood 

Published on January 23, 2018

Author: Madhura Joshi

Today all nations are focused on the growth of the local economy, which are contributing on a large scale to the national economy. Governments are developing different strategies to support their upcoming businesses, locally driven investment projects. These developments take place in most of the neighbourhood where communities play an important role.

Creating cities, towns & communities that are economically, environmentally & socially sustainable are the main focus of regeneration strategies, which is the biggest challenge for government.

The neighbourhood is a very important aspect of peoples lives specially families & communities. For their own identity, networking, development & services. Today local government is given prime importance to these aspects considering sustainability as a centre for development proposals.

This research paper focused on the concept of sustainable communities and to what extent the regeneration of neighbourhood gets benefits by creating sustainable communities.  Many of the different acts & policies by government, with some case studies, literature resources have been studied to understand the pros and cons of the creating sustainable communities.

Importance of the sustainable approach for Neighborhood regeneration:

Neighborhoods help to shape people's lives because they do more than house people. They form a base for wider activities, providing many of the social services that link individuals with each other, give rise to a sense of community. Thus, neighborhoods provide a basic line of support to families. The neighborhoods from the most immediate environment for children to socialize outside the family to build confidence and develop coping skills. (Power 2007: 22)


Regeneration is a set of activities that reverse an economic, social and the physical decline in areas where market forces will not do this without support from the government. (BERR, 2007 July)

Regeneration can remove barriers to economic growth and help local leaders to strengthen their communities and support people back into work. Economic growth can provide opportunities to tackle disadvantage, deprivation, and dilapidation helping to regenerate & breathe economic life into areas.          

Government aspires to a future where local communities, councils, business & social enterprises come together to agree on priorities for their area, and work in partnership to drive forward their plans for regeneration thinking creatively and working collaboratively with local service providers to improve the lives and opportunities for local people and unlock growth. (Regeneration to enable growth, Jan 2012)

Mostly in all regeneration projects, sustainability and community involvement have been a very important agenda to achieve. With this concept governments, has integrated act of sustainable communities for the neighbourhood regeneration in planning policy and have many kinds of literature been written on it, which has discussed below in detail.



Concept of Sustainable Communities:

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all. (Sustainable community: people, places & lives,2005)


As mentioned in the RIBA Egan Review report (Oct 2003) sustainable community is one, which able to provide & continue to provide the greater part of the diverse needs and desires of its population without compromising the needs of other communities and future generations.

UK government establishes act of sustainable communities to improve the neighborhood,

Sustainability of local communities act 2007:

(1) The principal aim of this Act is to promote the sustainability of local communities.

(2) In this Act references to promoting the sustainability of local communities, in relation to a local authority, are references to encouraging the improvement of the economic, social or environmental well being of the authority's area, or part of its area.

(3) In this section “social well-being” includes participation in civic & political activity.

(4) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to assist local authorities in promoting sustainability of local communities in ways specified in this Act. (, 2007, section1)


Churchill and Baeta (1999) develop a set of design guidelines for sustainable communities which address a broad range of design factors, including population density, alternative modes of transportation, community agriculture, water reuse and green building techniques.


Major features of sustainable communities are ecological protection; density & urban design; urban fill; village centers; local economy; sustainable transport; affordable housing; livable community; sewage & storm water; water; energy; the 3R’s  (12 Features of Sustainable Community Development, 2016)

Sustainable community development often referred to as green development, green real estate development, green communities, or sustainable built environment, sustainable real estate development and healthy communities. (12 Features of Sustainable Community Development, 2016)

What makes a sustainable community? (RIBA Egan Review report, Oct 2003)

Some of the key requirements of sustainable communities are:

1. A flourishing local economy to provide jobs & wealth;

2. Strong leadership to respond positively to change;

3. Effective engagement & participation by local people, groups & businesses, especially in the planning, design & long term stewardship of their community & an active voluntary & community sector

4. A safe & healthy local environment with well-designed public & green space

5. Sufficient size, scale & density & the right layout to support basic amenities in the neighbourhood & minimise use of resources (including land)

6. Good public transport & other transport infrastructure both within the community & linking it to urban, rural & regional centres

7. Buildings – both individually & collectively – that can meet different needs over time, and that minimise the use of resources

8. A well-integrated mix of decent homes of different types & tenures to support a range of household sizes, ages & incomes

9. Good quality local public services, including education & training opportunities, health care & community facilities, especially for leisure

10. A diverse, vibrant & creative local culture, encouraging pride in the community & cohesion within it

11. A “sense of place“

12. The right links with the wider regional, national & international community.


There are different initiatives related to sustainability taken by government authorities:

England: Green spaces for communities, including support for recreational group spaces and playing fields. Making green spaces more accessible for communities. A space for children’s to play. Sustainable communities.                                                                


Northern Ireland: Making green spaces more accessible to people. Community involvement in sustainable development taking into accounts how green spaces can help to overcome community divisions.                                                                                                            


Wales: Community involvement in sustainable development. (BIG Report, Feb 2008, pg.16)

Similarly, there are many projects that have adopted concept of sustainable community in a different way trying to focus on community participation.

But how could sustainable community helps to regenerate neighbourhood:

Role of ‘Sustainable communities’ in Regeneration process:              

1)   Secure long-term change by tackling barriers to growth and reducing wordlessness moving communities and individuals from dependence to independence.

2)   Improve places and make them more attractive to residents and investors, enabling a new & existing business to prosper.

3)   Foster ambition & unlock potential in the most deprived areas by breaking cycles of poverty, enabling everyone in society to gain more power in a decision made which affect them, & to take advantage of the economic opportunities that regeneration brings.

4)   Supplement & help to improve the flexibility and targeting of mainstream government services in underperforming areas.

5)   Deliver sustainable development, which contributes people’s satisfaction with where they live as well as wider government goals.

6)   Open up more opportunities create equal communities. (Transforming places; changing lives, July 2008)


In community led regeneration local people identify issues & opportunities in their areas, deciding what to do about than being responsible for declining the economic, social & environmental action that will make difference. It is dependent on energy & commitment of local people themselves and has a wide range benefit. The government is committed to supporting community-led regeneration is order to grow the numbers and strength of locally controlled, enterprising community organization which can anchor long-term sustainable change in disadvantaged communities. Support locally based organizations to take on ownership of viable assets. (Achieving sustainable future, 2011)

The sustainable community regenerate neighborhood mainly in three major ways economically, physically & socially:

Economically sustainable communities: A strong local economies, providing access to jobs & support for business. A well-trained workforce whose skills meet economic needs. People have access to the learning & development. Thriving private sector & social enterprise. An effective strategy is places to link economic opportunity & demand. The right affordable housing options & with sufficient availability & quality of housing all across tenures. Places encourage positive & appropriate private sector investment & social enterprise, which provides opportunities for business & jobs.

Physically sustainable communities:

People have access to quality public space &appropriate green space. Well-planned neighbourhood & local areas, with accessible facilities and amenities. The community has a positive appearance. Quality design & upkeep of buildings and spaces. Address vacant and derelict land and property and pressure heritage/built environment for productive use. Use resources efficiently and respect the natural environment.

Socially sustainable communities:

Communities and people are protected & safe. Delivery is focused on the needs of people. Communities are involved in designing in and delivering the services that affect them. Strong and effective community networks are in place. People have access to appropriate community facilities & places to meet. Communities have a positive identity and future aspirations. People are empowered to improve their area and maximise local assets. People have good physical and mental health. Towns and high streets are acts as a local point for social and economic interactions.


These all policies mainly focus on concept and its benefits to the neighbourhood but its integration with other neighbourhoods at city level has not clearly mentioned. We can see this approach from some of the examples in UK, how it helps to regenerate neighbourhood.

Bed ZED is a 21st century takes on the English Garden City. Not only is it truly sustainable – 90% of the steel was reclaimed from Brighton station – it is also the first attempt in the UK to help residents achieve a near “carbon-neutral” lifestyle. (RIBA Egan Review report, Oct 2003)                                                                        

This is contemporary brownfield housing development. This project has used public private partnership development approach. In this project site layout, climate responsive techniques & materials, energy saving methods has been used. This is solar urban village with high-end services, which mentioned as a sustainable project. For economic activity many options from renting to sharing workspaces, IT facilities, offices has been built. (RIBA Egan Review report, Oct 2003)         

Another example is Coopers London which is Master planning of major urban regeneration project for joint venture clients Peabody Trust and the London Borough of Southwark, involving the demolition of 1960s blocks of flats and their replacement with mixed tenure new build housing. The priority for Coopers Road is to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2020 without major modifications to the fabric, services or infrastructure. Creating a sense of community ownership is another key design principle defining the scheme. (RIBA Egan Review report, Oct 2003)         

From these two examples, it is evident that in practice also, the creation of sustainable communities has focused more on economic factor and less on environmental protection. Bed ZED project is focused more of green building sustainability than social and economic sustainability for the regenerating neighborhood. Also, the long-term feasibility for community for this kind of projects is completely missing. Coppers, London also focus on more building infrastructure but this project has developed with tenants group & arrangement of building’s are considered future expansions and development. As mentioned in Fig.01 the creation of diverse economy and participation, leadership is not taken into consideration to sustain such projects for long term.  

Conclusion: In the future regeneration of neighbourhood & sustainable communities, more focus should be on the economic outcome of deprived area within and by the community. In the deprived areas economic performance can be improved, creating rates of works & enterprises, creating a sustainable place for people to live & work, where businesses want to invest. (Transforming places; changing lives, July 2008)As mentioned above there is difference between the policies and implementation of sustainable communities in the practice. This concept does not address pressure on lands, nature and energy usages. Also expanding neighbourhood need to look at transportation, urban infrastructure connecting to another neighbourhood of the city. The migration and ethnic diversity for creating social cohesion are the factors that need to be addressed. These projects are more focused on development and sustainable building performances, but in reality, there is need to resolve the economic growth, skill development, constant migration and affordable housing shortage in sustainable way for large-scale regeneration. Also, all strategies have discussed the proposals but in case of poverty, unemployment & crime the social exclusion took places and these factors need to taken into consideration. Sustainable communities are applicable to both growth and low demand area; also the combined goals should focus on retaining & attracting a new community, in the low demand area. In future, there is scope to study on sustainable communities design guidelines & its implementation on large-scale for regeneration and its economical feasibility.Involvement of community in the planning policy has significant factor to consider in this process. Also strengthening and promoting local economy within communities will create impacts on larger-scale for Nation. Work opportunities within neighbourhood reduced use of transport system and reduced use of energy resources. Diverse ethnic group and their trust, activities & participation in regeneration development are the main features to be considered. Proper development of infrastructure is better for growth & community cohesion with the good transportation system and everything digitally connected to survive in the 21st century. Creating sustainable neighbourhood and connecting all regenerated areas in planning policy will reduced use of resources, humans & natural features is the real formation of “Sustainable Communities” which need to be changed to use in practice.In future regeneration should be more focused on tackling the underlying economic causes of decline, ensuring that every place can teach its potential transforming lives, by taking barriers to growth, reducing rates of wordlessness, promoting enterprise, and giving people the skills to progress. In this process of sustainable communities standardisation of energy efficiency, transport issues, social housing, availability of land, management and environmental issues need to address, so that it will really help to regenerate neighbourhood as bottom-up approach.

Author - Madhura Joshi




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