Sustainability applies to all elements of the environment including natural, built, archaeology as well as the social and economic environment. It has been defined as 'development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (after Bruntland). It seeks to achieve a better quality of life for everyone.
The concept of sustainable development is central to government policy. We are being encouraged to apply this principle to all development and strategic detailed plans for development. Despite this, it is still a concept that can be very difficult to apply in practice.
Sustainable development acknowledges the need to ensure that developments undertaken today do not prejudice options available to future generations in respect of resource use and development. Defra define a sustainable flood or coastal defence scheme as one which takes account of the inter-relationships with other defences, developments and processes within a catchment or coastal sediment cell or sub-cell, and which avoid as far as possible, tying future generations into inflexible and expensive options for defence.