17 May 2023: The City of London deliberated on proposals that signal its intention to embrace a "retrofit first" policy for its future City Plan. During the City's local planning committee meeting held on 27th April, councillors debated various measures outlined in the draft plans, indicating the corporation's commitment to prioritise retrofitting in its 2040 City Plan. According to the plan, these proposed measures aim to minimise the loss of embodied carbon in existing structures within the Square Mile. The draft plans also emphasised the importance of considering the whole-life carbon (WLC) impact of any new major development, defined as projects exceeding 1,000m2 or comprising 10 or more homes.
In light of these objectives, the draft plans suggested updating the City's sustainable development requirements. If implemented, these changes would mandate all major proposals to demonstrate that they have thoroughly explored multiple options, including retrofitting, before proceeding with alternative approaches. The City Corporation stated that the demands for a "retrofit first" approach could be incorporated into the City's overarching strategic policy on design. The proposed policy would emphasise the significance of retrofitting existing buildings, preserving embodied carbon, and minimising whole-life carbon emissions, as outlined in the draft plans.
The plan also highlighted that a fundamental objective of the draft City Plan is to facilitate the Square Mile's transition into a zero-carbon city by 2040. This ambitious goal underlines the City's commitment to addressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices within its boundaries.
In a media interaction with Architects’ Journal, City of London Corporation planning and transportation committee chairman Shravan Joshi said, “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.”
The City of London is poised to make significant strides in its commitment to sustainability and combating climate change with the potential adoption of a "retrofit first" policy. With a clear objective to transition to a zero-carbon city by 2040, the City of London demonstrates its determination to lead by example and set a new standard for urban sustainability.