Almost half of Europeans live in communist era housing, commissioner reveals

European minister have signed up to an eight-point plan to make the continent's communities sustainable.

The Bristol Accord was signed on Wednesday as part of a meeting of ministers in Bristol about sustainable communities.

The states agreed that sustainable communities would have good transport, services, shared community activities and a flourishing economy, and be environmentally friendly, socially cohesive, well built and well run.

The deputy prime minister John Prescott said: "We are united in our common goal - a European approach to creating sustainable communities. We are committed to delivering the quality of growth our people need and the quality of life they deserve. In Bristol this week, we have taken a major step forward in realising this shared ambition, with the signing of this Accord."

At the same meeting, European Commissioner for the Regions Danuta Hubner revealed the challenge faced by Europe over sustainable communities.

Hubner said 40% of Europe's citizens live in communist era housing and many of the homes are in need of major renovation. Traffic congestion in cities could also cost the European Union around 0.02bn euros in five years' time unless action is taken. Hubner said: "If nothing is done the costs attributable to traffic congestion will increase to one per cent of European gross domestic product by 2010."

The states also formed a working group to consider how money from the European Investment Bank can contribute to sustainable communities. The group plans to develop the role of EIB lending in housing and urban development. The group will include member states, the EIB and the European Commission, reporting back to ministers during the German EU presidency in 2007.

Many UK regeneration programmes have benefited from European structural funds, in the guise of the Objective One, Two and Three programmes. Regeneration practitioners will have to wait until the European budget in finalized to discover how much of this funding they can expect in future. Many anticipate severe cuts as the structural funds will have to invest in the new EU states in Eastern Europe.

The Academy for Sustainable Communities will also host a conference on the skills capacity needed to create sustainable communities across Europe in November next year.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has commissioned consultancy Ecotec research the skills shortage for creating sustainable communities in Europe.