Last edited 15 Oct 2020

Sustainable development

Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly, published in 1987, defines sustainable development as, 'meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

The UK Sustainable Development Strategy 'Securing the future: delivering UK sustainable development strategy' published in 2005, proposed five guiding principles of sustainable development:

In the strategy, the then-Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn MP, said:

Sustainable development is about much more than just bringing the environment into development. If things are going to change, what we need is not abstract notions, nor doom and gloom, but practical, effective and above all fair principles for the sound management of the planet. Because development that's sustainable has to work for the poor as well as for the planet”.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in 2012 sets out government planning policy for England. In the Foreword to the NPPF, the then-Minister for Planning, Greg Clark MP suggested that:

The NPPF makes clear that, 'the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development' and that development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay, that is, a presumption in favour of sustainable development should be '…a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking'.

It proposes that the planning system has to perform three mutually dependent roles in relation to sustainable development:

It suggests that pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements, including:

  • Making it easier for jobs to be created in cities, towns and villages.
  • Moving from a net loss of bio-diversity to achieving net gains for nature.
  • Replacing poor design with better design.
  • Improving the conditions in which people live, work, travel and take leisure.
  • Widening the choice of high quality homes.

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