Draft measures debated by councillors on the City’s local planning committee last month (27 April) highlighted the corporation’s intention to place greater weight on retrofitting in its 2040 City Plan.

The report stated that this could reduce the loss in embodied carbon of existing structures in the Square Mile. It said that the total life carbon (WLC), for any major new scheme (over 1,000m2 Consideration should be given to the purchase of 10 or more properties.

The draft plans pointed to an update to the City’s sustainable development requirements, which could require all major proposals ‘to demonstrate that multiple options have been considered’ – including retrofitting.

Demands for a ‘retrofit first’ approach could also be inserted into the City’s overarching strategic policy on design, the corporation said. That would set out ‘the importance of retrofitting existing buildings, retaining embodied carbon and minimising whole-life carbon emissions’, the draft plans said.

‘A key objective of the draft City Plan is to ensure that the Square Mile transitions to a zero carbon city by 2040’, the document stated.

City of London Corporation planning and transportation committee chairman Shravan Joshi told the AJ: ‘As an organisation, we are moving towards a “retrofit first” approach, where reuse and refurbishment of existing buildings, structure and materials must be given serious consideration in any planning application.

‘We’re now looking to enshrine a retrofit-first approach in our City Plan, which will form the strategic basis for how the City develops over the years ahead to 2040.’

Members of the Local Plans Sub-Committee were asked to provide feedback on some of the suggested changes to policies in the City Plan, which will be decided on later this year by the Court of Common Council – the corporation’s main decision-making body.

Joshi said that the draft City Plan was then going to be put out for public review next year.

Townscape Consultancy board director Peter Stewart commented: ‘This doesn’t come as a surprise. It doesn’t rule out proposals to demolish and rebuild, but it’s consistent with the steadily increasing demands on developers to justify demolition with regard to carbon implications.

‘The demands of likely tenants are moving in the same direction, as they increasingly want or need to demonstrate their own sustainability credentials, so there may be less resistance to this proposal from the market than some might assume.’

The City of London is already taking action some steps In March, a Carbon Options Guided Planning Advice Note was introduced to help reduce carbon emissions in the built environment.

The Twentieth Century Society, a conservation group, has praised the move. tweeted: ‘City of London is making a very welcome direction change Planning policy. The City is home to some of Britain’s most extraordinary twentieth and twenty-first century architecture, which deserves conservation or modernisation, not demolition.’

But those who are trying to save former Museum of London sites from City of London plans to demolish them have expressed concern about the guidelines that give developers a time limit of seven weeks to express their interest in retrofitting these buildings.

A City of London representative told the AJ they stood by their findings of a carbon assessment that was published in 2022. This assessment favored retrofitting over demolition.

But they added: ‘[Our] Inviting retrofitters to express their interest was the result of a thorough consultation process, refined proposals and ongoing assessment of all site options.

‘All proposed design solutions will be assessed on their merits, which includes full consideration of both carbon efficiency and financial viability.’

Planning application with drawings by Sheppard Robson and Diller Scofidio + Renfro Later this year, we can expect to see the arrival of a new model.

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