Building Sustainable Communities - Online CPD Unit

Activity 1: What is a sustainable community?

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.

Sustainable communities are:

  • Active, inclusive and safe
  • Well run
  • Environmentally sensitive
  • Well designed and built
  • Well connected
  • Thriving
  • Well served
  • Fair for everyone

Sustainable communities embody the principles of sustainable development. They:

  • Balance and integrate the social, economic and environmental components of their community
  • Meet the needs of existing and future generations
  • Respect the needs of other communities in the wider region or internationally also to make their communities sustainable

Sustainable communities are diverse, reflecting their local circumstances. There is no standard template to fit them all.

Source: Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

The text of this page, more details and a full reference can be found in the Word document 'What is a Sustainable Community?'. (This is intended as general information and not as learner's material.)

Egan Wheel

These characteristics of sustainable communities are also presented in the 'Egan wheel' named after Sir John Egan who chaired the review into skills for sustainable communities. The eight components have a high level of language sophistication in both of the forms in which they are given.

Imagine you can move the spokes of the wheel to demonstrate in a pie-chart the notional importance given to each component in the conventional teaching of the geography of settlement.

Eight components are difficult to juggle. How would you scaffold learning by introducing them in turn? Could you conflate this framework to six without losing the overall conceptual integrity? Can you identify specific terms or vocabulary to introduce or reinforce for subsequent geographical learning?

Eight Components

Look at this version of the eight components with more complete descriptions and examples.

Source: ASC (2006) Making Places: creating sustainable communities. A teachers guide to sustainable communities, Leeds: Academy for Sustainable Communities


It is not suggested here that the eight components should be taught. It is probably best thought of as a framework for looking at communities which can to be explored and tested by geographical thinking.

Where do you want to live?

Now watch the video Where do you want to live? (2003). This is an eight-minute video explaining sustainable communities with professional viewpoints and glimpses of Basingstoke, Greenwich Millennium Village and Newark.

You might like to consider the pros and cons of using this video with learners. There is a transcript downloadable from the same page. To what extent does it succeed in conveying the bigger picture? Or does it really come down to people wanting 'good design and facilities on their doorstep'? How does it take into account multiple perspectives?

In the active sense, considering sustainable communities is sometimes referred to as place-making and we will look at it again later in this unit.

Now do Activity 2 >>>

This project was run in partnership with the Academy for Sustainable Communities which has since become the Skills and Knowledge team at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Comment on this page

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Anna de Jager Guest

I like the structure of the Egan wheel. It is a useful instrument to investigate quality of life in human settlements.


jill kirks Guest

love the Egan wheel as it shows all the factors needed for a sustainable human settlement

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