English Partnerships has played down fears that developers bidding for its London-Wide Initiative will be able to turn a blind eye to sustainability standards.

EP met the five bidding consortiums last week and told them they could issue bids that were non-compliant with its standards on sustainability, good design or modern methods of construction.

It is understood this was prompted by concern that the benchmarks could not always be applied on difficult sites such as those requiring tall buildings, where modern methods of construction would be more costly to use.

One senior developer, who declined to be named, said the decision raised concerns that EP was more interested in price than quality. He said: “It’s such a wonderful opportunity to produce exemplar designs, and now there’s a danger it might go to the cheapest bidder. These are civil servants: once you start entertaining the idea of lowest costs they’ll ask ‘Why did you ignore the lowest cost option?’”

An EP spokesperson said the non-compliant bid option simply offered developers the chance to react to the individual sites.

David Higgins, chief executive of EP, said: “Development management partners for the London-Wide Initiative will be selected against seven criteria to meet the standards expected for the delivery of the programme. Importance will be placed on innovation, design, construction, management as well as value for money.”