Co-founder of BioRegional disappointed by end of Quintain joint venture but says valuable lessons can be learnt

We, of course, are disappointed that Quintain has withdrawn from financing BQL projects to focus on its core London developments. However, we fully understand Quintain’s decision and celebrate its commitment to BQL over the past five years.

The pressures on our industry have been enormous without having to address the urgent issue of building truly sustainable communities. Yet the challenge for the 21st century remains - as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in 2001 - how to ‘turn the abstract concept of sustainable development into a reality for all the world’s people’.

BQL’s legacy will be setting a new benchmark in the UK, in particular One Brighton, developed in joint venture with Crest Nicholson. The 172 apartments enable residents to achieve a 70% carbon reduction compared with living in a building regulations home and sold well.

The development is triple-glazed, constructed from low carbon materials and is free of private car parking - employing 10 One Planet principles, such as zero waste and sustainable transport, through design, construction and estates mangement. It has been a profitable project, and good sales in the 2008-2010 period demonstrate that, in certain circumstances, selling a truly sustainable development can bring commercial advantage. We aim to work with Quintain and Crest to publish a full industry case study in 2012.

There is no denying that delivering One Brighton has been tough given inertia in our industry and the challenges of doing things differently - even simple things. However, the hopes of the pioneers remain - that the land becomes easier to colonise. Indeed, a green supply chain has been emerging. The next real challenge for the wider industry is to follow One Brighton’s lead to create truly sustainable communities that look beyond the buildings to encompass wholes sustainable lifestyles as well - what we call ‘One Planet Living’ - something we need more urgently than ever.

BioRegional Development Group, based at BedZED, remains committed to sustainable community development and we are actively pursuing opportunities to work with developers and investors in the UK and overseas. We are currently working with developers and planning bodies in planned new developments (including eco-towns at Bicester and Whitehill Bordon) and existing communities (such as our work with London Borough of Sutton).

We are also committed to Middlesbrough where the council has adopted the One Planet principles as well. We have also been working hard to systematise our approach to One Planet Communities and look forward to launching an ‘open source’ version during 2012.

As well as full credit to Quintain and Crest, particular credit must be given to BQL colleagues, Pete Halsall, Nick James and Daniel Viliesid whose commitment and determination made One Brighton a reality.

Pooran Desai is sustainability director at BioRegional Quintain and co-founder of the BioRegional Development Group charity