City of Westminster skyline
City of Westminster skyline
Westminster Council’s new Labour administration will encourage commercial buildings to be upgraded to the latest environmental standards by introducing a new “retrofit first” planning policy.

Under the new policy, included in a partial review of Westminster’s City Plan, we will require developers to fully evaluate the option to retrofit before demolishing buildings. The move will accelerate the upgrading of commercial buildings to meet the needs of today’s businesses, cut carbon emissions and help the city become net zero by 2040.

The proposals will make it easier to upgrade historic buildings and those in conservation areas with heat pumps, insulation, solar panels, and other improvements to better adapt to climate change. For the first time, we are asking planning officers to balance the benefits of retrofit against possible harm to the city’s heritage and townscape.

The policy does recognise that for some cases demolition and rebuild will still be the right option. We want retrofit first, not retrofit only. But developers will need to fully investigate options for retrofit and extension at the outset, before considering demolition.

Where demolition is supported, the new policy encourages developers to maximise recycling and introduces the concept of carbon budgeting. We will set targets for CO2 embodied in each square metre of new floorspace built. If the policy is agreed by the Planning Inspector, council officers estimate this could save 480,000 tonnes of carbon between now and 2040, which is equivalent to heating 11,000 homes a year.

Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development said:

“This review of our City Plan is part of our strategy for a Fairer Westminster balancing the benefits of new development with our target to become a net zero city by 2040.”

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