Bristol Accord to unite Europe in building sustainable communities

A historic agreement to unite Europe behind a common goal of creating sustainable communities was announced today at the EU informal meeting of ministers, hosted by deputy prime minister John Prescott. The Bristol Accord will provide a framework for EU governments to deliver jobs, economic prosperity, social justice, and improved quality of life for Europe’s 450 million citizens.

It sets out eight key characteristics that will inform future European regional policy to deliver places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Sustainable communities should be safe, fair, thriving, environmentally sensitive, well run, served, connected and designed. The Accord agreed today in Bristol builds on the Rotterdam urban acquis, the Lisbon agenda for jobs and growth, the goals of environmental sustainability agreed at Gothenburg, and effective democratic governance agreed at the Warsaw Summit in May.

Prescott says: “We are united in our common goal, a European approach to creating sustainable communities. We are committed to delivering the quality of growth our people need and the quality of life they deserve. Sustainable communities is a big idea for a bigger Europe. It offers a chance to create thriving and successful places in which the people of Europe will have a more secure and prosperous future. In Bristol this week we have taken a major step forward in realising this shared ambition, with the signing of this accord.”

Ministers also agreed to the establishment of a group of EU experts to consider how European Investment Bank loans can contribute to the development of sustainable communities. The group will include member states, the EIB and the European Commission, reporting back to ministers during the German presidency in 2007.

Ministers also signed up to a Sustainable Communities Skills Symposium to help drive forward the implementation of the Bristol Accord. The symposium, to be hosted by the UK’s Academy for Sustainable Communities in November 2006, will look at the common challenges in building the skills capacity needed to create sustainable communities across Europe. Leading experts, policy makers and practitioners from across Europe will gather together to improve and integrate essential generic and cross occupational skills.

Prescott adds: “Delivering sustainable communities will require the right skills and knowledge, new ways of working and new partnerships. We need to foster the generic skills which allow professionals to work effectively together. By collaborating closely and sharing experiences across Europe through the Skills Symposium, we can help to make this happen.”

The agreement to hold the Symposium comes as research commissioned into the skills challenges across Europe found there is a lack of common understanding of the specific skills, competencies and occupations required to deliver sustainable communities.

Professor Peter Roberts, chairman of the Academy for Sustainable Communities, says: “There are things that can be done quickly to achieve better local towns, cities and regions but delivering sustainable communities is a long-term programme that requires new ways of working. As well as improving and integrating skills, it is essential that we share ideas, knowledge and experience from across Europe. The Symposium will play an important part in a wider effort to build European co-operation on the skills and knowledge needed to create and maintain sustainable communities.

“The Academy welcomes the contributions of member states, the European Urban Knowledge Network and URBACT and looks forward to working with them to develop all aspects of this important agenda.”