In a new book ‘Building Sustainable Futures‘ edited by Dastbaz and Strange and published by Springer 2015 I contribute a chapter on neighbourhood planning and sustainable communities.
The concept of sustainable communities has come to define a particular type of governance in which responsibility for ameliorating the impact of economic growth is devolved to place-based voluntary and community associations. The community provides a model of sustainability in which the economics of collective consumption and the politics of community action can be engaged in the planning and stewardship of local development. The strategies of sustainable communities that result combine the market zeal of spatial liberalism with themes of redistributive justice and equality. In the concept of community they find both a model of resilience and self-reliance and conversely a dynamic of mutual aid and co-operation.
My chapter identifies these competing strands in government strategies for sustainable communities in England and particularly the programme of neighbourhood planning introduced from 2011. Together with my co-author, David Haigh, I argue that through neighbourhood planning responsibility for achieving environmental and social sustainability was largely abandoned by the state and relegated to the domestic networks of the community. We explore the definition of sustainability that emerged from communities and their neighbourhood plans, one in which the priorities of environmental quality and the welfare needs of social reproduction were pursued through a Hobson’s choice of economic growth or self-reliance. In attempts by neighbourhood planning groups to establish innovative strategies of participation and community management we evidence the continuance of claims of redistribution and spatial equality in the concept of sustainability and in this unequal geography of community initiatives, we chart the development of a new patchwork politics of place. Building Sustainable Futures chapter_Final