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The World's First One Planet City That Is Blazing a Path

It will take decades of dedicated work to bring a city's ecological footprint down to a proportionately fair level but that is the aim of the One Planet Brighton policy decided on 18 April 2013 in Brighton & Hove by the local authority.

A local food market in Brighton

A local food market in Brighton.

As an evolution of BioRegional's One Planet Living philosophy the document agreed upon unanimously by council members marks a milestone. The local authority approved a Sustainability Action Plan that would use BioRegional's methodology and embody the city's existing initiatives and climate change strategy, to be carried out by a wide-ranging partnership.

The strategy utilises the ten sustainability principles put together by BioRegional and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. It recognises that it requires step changes in the way problems are solved, in particular in feeding the city's inhabitants, and includes the following objectives among many others:

  • year on year to reduce energy use by 4%, to achieve a 42% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050, from a 2005 baseline of 5.7 tonnes per capita;
  • to develop 'closed loop' resource management and waste minimisation so that by  2025, 70% of domestic waste by weight will be recycled or composted, with residual waste being reduced by 10% per household by 2025; organic waste to be collected and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility to create energy and fertiliser;
  • to promote cycling, walking and low emission forms of transport so that by 2050 there will be "zero carbon travel at work", starting from a position where transport contributes 26% of the city's CO2 emissions;
  • the council will use its Sustainable Procurement Policy and Sustainable Procurement Toolkit to control and monitor all contracts for the social, ethical, environmental and economic impacts of the products and services that it buys;
  • ultimately to create a circular (materials) economy to replace the present 'take, make, waste' one, including using unused buildings and local reprocessing plants to make reusable materials available, recovering materials currently burned, buried or exported such as mattresses, sofas and tyres;
  • to reduce the current element of the ecological footprint related to food from 1.43 global hectares per person to 0.67 by 2025;
  • to cut water use by fixing leaks and promoting water efficiency;
  • to reduce flood risk and urban pollution sources of drainage networks, watercourses;
  • to adopt a Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) and make the city contribute to the global need for 0.3ha of wildlife habitat per resident somewhere in the world;
  • to promote fair trade, a local economy, equity and inclusivity physically and socially, jobs in the green economy and pay a living wage extensively across the city;
  • to reduce localised health inequalities, increase access to work and retention of employees with health related conditions, and to create an environment where employees are able to take personal responsibility for improving their own health and wellbeing;
  • to make it easy, attractive and affordable for people to lead happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the earth's resources.

School food harvest

A school food harvest open day.


Food and nutrition

Food Matters - cover of booklet on how to reduce the environmental impacts of food consumption in cities Food is an area particularly targeted for action. In 2013 Brighton & Hove was named 'best community food growing project' in the Big Lottery's Local Food Awards out of over 500 projects across England. Its strategy, set out in 2012, is called Spade to Spoon: Digging Deeper.

Right: cover of booklet on how to reduce the environmental impacts of food consumption in cities by Food Matters.

It includes a drive to get people to eat more healthily with a Weight Referral Service which directs adults and children onto a range of targeted nutrition and exercise programmes, vegetable growing in schools, and another strand addressing food poverty.

The Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust purchases food from a local market garden supplier (pictured below right) for people using its mental health services to such an extent that its turnover increased by 30% in four years.

New Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes include Sheepshare, in which sheep grazing around the city are brought in as meat to share between residents; Fork and Dig It, which shares vegetables from the local Stanmer Organics site; and Catchbox, in which members pay in advance for a share of fishermen's catch.

Restaurants and cafes are encouraged to source local and sustainable produce.

Market garden supplying BrightonSchools, universities, hospitals and public bodies set up a Good Food Procurement Group to obtain fresh, sustainably-sourced ingredients. 

Harvest, a city-wide project that encourages more food growing within the city, has recently been awarded 'Best Community Growing Project' from the Lottery's Local Food Fund. According to Harvest's evaluation surveys respondents reported such changes as wasting less food (44%), composting (41%), and buying more local food (36%).

The primary aim is to get people growing their own, in their gardens, balconies, allotments, or even public parks and empty land around housing estates.

Training is offered to individuals and community groups, and new community gardens are being developed, financed initially in 2009 by nearly £500,000 over four years from the Big Lottery Local Food Fund.

In that time, 51 new growing projects were started on 1.75 acres of new growing space, spread across the city and involving many different types of people, from local neighbours to charities working with vulnerable individuals. 

There is a project to collect fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste from trees in private and public gardens which is given to local people, or processed into juice, preserves or chutneys.

A video celebrating 10 years of city food in BrightonA Community Composting scheme diverts food waste from landfill.

The Big Dig was a celebration of food growing where the community gardens showcased their projects in parks, orchards and forests, to inspire others to get growing too.

Right: A video celebrating 10 years of city food in Brighton.

The Council has published a Planning Advisory Note (PAN) which encourages developers to include space for food growing. Planners in London are now looking to adopt this multi-award winning model.

To support many of its aims the Council issued an online sustainability checklist for all planning applications to validate themselves for residential and mixed use schemes, including food growing, biodiversity, building standards, materials, flood risk, passive design, carbon dioxide emissions, public transport, pedestrianism, parking, waste, job creation and open space questions.

Page from Brighton and Hove's planning questionnaire for developers on incorporating respect for local food

A page from Brighton and Hove's planning questionnaire for developers on incorporating respect for local food.

One Brighton

One Brighton development. Picture: BioRegional-QuantainIn this context BioRegional worked with developers Crest Nicholson to develop an example of how this might work in practice with a development called One Brighton.

Right: One Brighton development. Picture: BioRegional-Quantain.

This contains 172 residential units and 10,000 sq ft of office and community space on a former locomotive manufacturing site. The 0.39 ha parcel of land is close to Brighton train station.

The development has achieved an 'Excellent' rating under EcoHomes, a now-defunct national sustainability standard assessment for new homes, and was considered to be "Zero Carbon" under this assessment, by using features such as:

  • triple glazing;
  • highly insulated breathable walls;
  • a biomass community heating system;
  • solar PV panels for electricity;
  • food-growing space that residents can lease on the sixth floor;
  • on-site composting facilities;
  • cycling storage;
  • car club with two years' free membership and a 50% discount on rates for residents;
  • organic vegetable box delivery points;
  • a biomass boiler for hot water and space heating.

The commercial offices and community space are designed to achieve BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) "Excellent" ratings.

Right: Roof garden on One Brighton.Roof garden on One Brighton

A concession by the planning department that they didn't have to provide car parking space was critical to the financial success of the project.

The on-site biomass boiler and PV panels provide about half the energy requirements; the remainder is bulk-purchased for residents as guaranteed renewable electricity through a One Brighton Energy Services Company.

This is all well and good, but the One Planet Brighton strategy faces many significant hurdles ahead. Two of these are contained in a December 2013 letter written by the planning inspector.

She notes the challenge of creating sufficient new affordable and sustainable housing to meet local needs and observes the difficulty in satisfying the social aspect of sustainability.

Brighton has stepped out along a brave path into a sustainable future, and must take all of its population with it on this expedition. It is still exploring the route and has way to go, but has made an excellent start.