The Sustainable Communities Act (SCA)

The Sustainable Communities Act (SCA) became law in 2007.

The act gives councils and communities an opportunity to put forward new thinking on how to meet the challenges of sustainability and local wellbeing.

It operates on the principle that local people know best what needs to be done to promote the sustainability of their area, but that sometimes they need central government to act to enable them to do so.

It provides a channel for local people and the councils that represent them to ask central government to take such action.

The act aims to help communities reverse the trend of ongoing community decline through loss of local facilities and services, including amongst others shops, markets, post offices, pubs, health centres and banks.

You can find out more about the act on the legislation.gov.uk website (link opens in new window).

How to use the SCA

Here's how the process works:

  • the act gives town and parish councils, together with their communities, the right to come up with proposals and then to submit these to central government.
    These proposals can be for any government action or assistance that would protect or promote sustainable communities. The SCA defines 'sustainable communities' as incorporating:
    • local economies
    • environmental protection
    • social inclusion
    • democratic involvement
    A valid proposal must:
    • promote sustainable communities as defined by the SCA
    • require specific central government action or assistance
    Communities and councils can submit proposals whenever they choose
  • if a council chooses to use the Act by submitting proposals, they must involve the local community.
    This means both consultation and agreement about the proposals the council will submit. Proposals will need to demonstrate effective dialogue with the local community.
    This could be done by inviting representatives of community groups to Town or Parish Council meetings to discuss and reach agreement on the issue, or by writing to those who might be interested in the proposal and asking for their support
  • SCA proposals are submitted through the Barrier Busting website (link opens in new window)
  • government has a 6 month time limit to respond to proposals

Any proposal that's not given a 'yes' in the first instance can be taken up by the selector.

The selector is an external, independent body made up of representatives from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and Local Works.

Central government must try to reach agreement with the selector on whether the originally rejected proposal can be implemented.

This means that meaningful dialogue, discussion and negotiation takes place so that the final decision about whether or not the proposal will be implemented is taken together by government and the selector.

The results of this process can lead to reconsideration or compromise from the government on proposals that they initially rejected.