ECOVAST has an active interest in the heritage of buildings, the landscape setting of villages and small towns, cultural heritage, the survival of towns and villages -’sustainability’ and the involvement of citizens in integrated rural development.
In the work of ECOVAST and its influence on policy at European Union level and through the Council of Europe, our ASSET project (Action to Strengthen Small European Towns) has generated thought about the key role of towns related to the surrounding landscape and villages and the future importance of ‘Localness’ - food, energy and services - especially health, housing, retail, education and transport.
There are examples from the UK and from Poland of community-led plans that can identify the visions and needs of local residents, visitors and workers and that can influence rural development in terms of the management of land and economic enterprises.
ECOVAST has pioneered the involvement of citizens in Landscape Identification - A guide to good practice (download pdf). The purpose of this guide is to help the citizens of Europe to understand, to celebrate and to protect the landscape in which they live; and to assist governments in their work to implement the European Landscape Convention.
The two ECOVAST projects have, at the heart of them, a strong reliance on the engagement of local people, with local knowledge, in assessing and influencing the future survival of:
1. Small Towns in rural areas
2. Landscape quality
Other interests of ECOVAST national sections and individual members also rely on local interest and citizen involvement: survival of the built heritage; of culture, customs, skills and traditions of rural people; of ecosystems and bio-diversity; and the place of new technology, renewable energy and tourism promotion.
People who volunteer their time and expertise make that involvement possible, in large measure.
For that reason, I conclude by posing several questions about the context of volunteering, to promote discussion about the future strength and capacity of volunteers.