Martock Neighbourhood Plan



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What is 'sustainable development'?

It all started in 1972 at a UN conference in Stockholm, the first UN conference on environmental issues.

By then many world leaders had finally come to realise that the natural and human environment of our planet was rapidly deteriorating and something should be done.

The outcome of the meeting was the Brundtland Commission (chaired by the former Norwegian PM, Gro Harlem Brundtland) a gathering of the Great and Good otherwise known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). In 1987 they produced a report called ‘Our Common Future’. This tried to define how our future economic development could take place in a way which did not involve the kind of social and environmental degradation that we were by then witnessing.

Brundtland introduced the important concept of ‘sustainable development’; development that meets our present needs without so damaging our environment that future generations will not be able to meet theirs.

The Brundtland report recognised that sustainable development was based on three pillars, social development, environmental development (conservation) and economic development. Only when the demands of all three are met simultaneously can any development be considered ‘sustainable’. Until then these three elements of development had usually been considered separately and it was this lack of ‘joined up thinking’ that was a major source of our social, economic and, particularly, environmental woes.

UN Conference on the Human Environment - The Sockholm Conference 1972



Our Common Future, the Brundtland Report, 1987

Some people like using Venn diagrams to picture ideas like this. Here is Sustainable Development in a Venn nutshell (courtesy Wikipedia)

Sustainable development venn



Wikipedia Sustainable Development

Back to international politics.
The Brundtland report led to the UN ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio in 1992. (Technically the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED),). This led to a whole lot of further conventions and agreements on issues such as climate change, biodiversity, desertification, etc. A key one was the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which listed 27 principles of sustainable development that all countries signed up to.

This was followed by the ‘Rio + 10’ summit in Johannesburg in 2002, boycotted by George W Bush, which produced the ‘Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development’ which was all about ‘being united and moved by a deeply felt sense that we urgently need to create a new and brighter world of hope’ and ‘bringing together a rich tapestry of peoples and views in a constructive search for a common path’.

But beneath these fluffy declarations, however, much was now happening on the ground. In UN organisations, national policies and civil services, NGOs, and regional and national development programmes, the concept of sustainable development was gradually becoming embedded as a key underpinning of development policy.

Here, on the ground, in the UK
Here, the Rio Principles had begun to stimulate a lot of local work firstly on gathering detailed information about our environment (The Martock Peripheral Landscape Study of 2008 is a good example) and secondly on developing new national and local policies and guidelines which reflected the Principles.(The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 is an example).

And now we are right down at the bottom level of development (and some would say the most important level) in the Martock Neighbourhood Plan. We have to interpret the Brundtland Venn diagram for our own streets and countryside. Which explains why three of the five proposed pillars of our Plan are the Brundtland three.


Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992

Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development 2002





Martock Peripheral Landscape Study 2008

National Planning Policy Framework 2012