English NGOs urge use of the Sustainable Communities Act

By agency reporter
13 Dec 2012

Leaders of over 75 national organisations -- including the National Trust, the Women’s Institute, Age UK, the trade union UNISON and the Woodland Trust -- have joined together in a call for councils across England to use a new law to help tackle community decline.

The organisations, who form the Local Works coalition, have co-signed a letter to all councils in the country urging them to use the Sustainable Communities Act.

The Act is designed to tackle community decline and reverse the closure of local post offices, shops and pubs, boost local services and make local areas more sustainable.

It is based on a radical “bottom-up” process, through which councils and local people can get together and “reach agreement” on ideas they want to put to government.

Councils and communities can use the Act to request new powers or laws and to remove red tape. People in Sheffield have used the Act to protect local post offices from closure. The Act has also been used to boost local renewable energy and to stop developers exploiting a loophole to use gardens for development.

With cuts hitting communities hard and many town centres suffering record closures, campaigners are calling for councils all over the country to make maximum use of the powers of the Act.

Local Works National Co-ordinator, Steve Shaw, commented: “Communities are suffering badly under the combined weight of economic decline and severe cuts to services. The Sustainable Communities Act offers people a chance to fight back and get government help to protect their local area. It has unique provisions which mean government cannot simply say ‘no’ to the ideas that come forward. It must negotiate with an independent panel and take meaningful action to help communities.”

Hea dded: “People can only take advantage of the Act’s unique powers if their council chooses to do so. Over 75 national organisations have today signed a letter to councils in England calling on them to take up this unprecedented opportunity and use the Act. We strongly encourage councils to respond positively to this call for action by using the Act to make the government do more to help their communities.”

* Read the full letter here: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/m/1e11396e/79ddbc1c/14ef55f0/6...

More on Local Works: www.localworks.org

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