Based on extensive fieldwork in eight local authority areas throughout the UK, the report has some pertinent comments to make about community strategies, local authority communication with their communities and the link between environmental issues and neighbourhood renewal.
Local Agenda 21 (LA21) originates from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. It is a policy initiative aimed at encouraging local authorities to promote more sustainable communities. Researchers from the University of Westminster examined whether this has been achieved in some of the UK's most deprived areas.
The study includes the views and perceptions of local authority officers, project workers, local volunteers, trainees and residents in eight case study areas in some of the most deprived areas of the UK. It offers new insights into the importance of local environmental issues to regeneration, neighbourhood renewal and community planning.
The study finds that:
- LA21 has been a useful tool for local authorities to raise officer awareness about sustainable development, but the LA21 'label' was not generally recognised by local people, although the need to address economic, social and environmental concerns in an integrated manner was clearly understood and supported.
- Where LA21 practitioners have linked their work with regeneration programmes there have been successful examples of delivering economic, social and environmental improvements. This link has been vital for engaging local people and basing actions more on what they actually need or want from their area.
- Community planning and neighbourhood renewal officers are often unaware of the experiences of their counterparts in LA21 and are duplicating the efforts of previous public involvement exercises in deprived nei ghbourhoods.
- Many neighbourhood renewal policies are overlooking important synergies and interactions between the economic, social and environmental concerns of local communities in deprived areas in their policy planning and delivery activities.
- Government guidance needs to be more clear about the importance of achieving sustainable development in deprived communities and the links and tensions between economic, social and environmental policy objectives in the context of regeneration. Without this there will continue to be considerable ambiguity about how to juggle these frequently competing policy priorities.
The full report is available here.