Westden (formerly West Devon Environmental Network) was launched in 1994 with a focus on traditional ‘green’ issues. However it soon became obvious that the outcomes of the 1992 UN Earth Summit could not be ignored. Environmental issues could not be tackled in isolation from social and economic factors and, if anything was to be done about global problems such as climate change and poverty, the place to start was at a local level. As they consulted on a way forward for Westden it was apparent that their objectives and Agenda 21 were inseparable.
Latest news Edit
According to the project's website (accessed May 1 2008) Westden has no active projects. This project is being category as 'apparently lapsed'. If it becomes active again it can be recategorised.
Westden and local government Edit
The local authority, West Devon Borough Council, agreed that Westden should take a lead on Local Agenda 21 and they, as an authority, would do their best to respond to issues raised. It also made good economic sense for a community group to facilitate the process since Westden could attract funding that was not available to the public sector for any resulting projects. The Council was also aware of the importance of involving the community.
The consultation process that led to Westden’s set of ‘Sustainability Principles’ was not out of any textbook. After trying the usual methods which failed to create enthusiasm, they developed an approach that included presentations to the elderly at a tea dance, theatre in schools and workshops with scouts and guides as well as meetings over kitchen tables. Sometimes these worked, sometimes they did not, but over 3,500 of the Borough’s population of 48,000 were directly involved in achieving a consensus on the issues that people felt were important to sustainability.
Practical projects Edit
Westden considered that practical projects would be the best way of demonstrating what sustainability meant in practice. By 1998 over 20 projects had either taken place or were under development. Some of these attracted funding, others took place without finance, while others waited until resources could be found. One of these issues was the need for appropriate jobs for no ‘the’ young people who were leaving the area in search of employment and housing. From this came the ‘Ley of the Land’ project that has been providing training and other support for over 100 young people every year for the last 6 years.
They also wanted to measure whether West Devon was becoming more or less sustainable and, with the help of the University of Plymouth, evolved a system of indicators which are widely recognised as good practice. Each ‘sustainability principle’ had one or more indicator which ranged from the amount of locally-produced food eaten by local people, to the number of ethical investment policies taken out in the Borough. There have been four bi-annual indicators reports covering progress.
Recent activity Edit
It became clear in 2002 that Local Agenda 21 was no longer very popular with central or local government in the UK. Many local authorities were not even pretending to use the LA21 strategies that they had developed. Ironically it was a local government submission to the Johannesburg Summit that suggested that Local Agenda 21 ought to be revitalised under the name Local ACTION 21. LA21 in West Devon has now been retitled in this way. Westden’s current projects include:
- training and retraining for young and older people affected by the downturn in small-scale farming; loan of motor scooters for young people handicapped by access to transport;
- a team of Community Animateurs helping to build capacity in rural communities;
- support for the production, sale and consumption of healthy local food; and
- projects with partners in Europe and India to promote local sustainability and to build community capacity.
Building our own futures: Local action for sustainable development across Europe in the 21st century A report for ANPED, the Northern Alliance for Sustainability, Chris Church, March 2005