The Welsh Assembly, advised by Nick Tune of BRE (Wales), is leading the UK in its drive towards the most efficient, low energy designs possible for new housing.

These are similar first steps to those of the small, self-contained Vorarlberg region in Austria. In the early 1980’s, when in the UK we were squandering our oil reserves without making any plans for renewable energy generation or energy efficiency, as if there was no tomorrow, the government of Vorarlberg developed a plan for self-sufficiency in food and energy. Vorarlberg is now prosperous and the community is well housed, well educated, well fed and relatively happy.

Wales now has the same opportunity and I think also the vision to succeed in the same way. Rich in natural resources of water, agricultural land and forestry I am quite certain that with continuing wise government, Wales holds the UK’s ‘golden chalice’ of the 21st century.

I am told that so far Vorarlberg have managed to keep out the greedy speculators because there is a strong sense of community and a general disgust at the divisions and social breakdowns that result from the kind of wealth and poverty extremes in countries such as the UK and the USA. There are virtually no millionaires and virtually no poor people in Vorarlberg and everyone is the wealthier for it. So I do hope that Wales can retain that same sense of community, building a shining example of a fair and just society for the rest of the UK to learn from.