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Retrofit to the rescue as projects face cuts

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Architects are set to benefit from a surge in affordable-housing retrofits, as the new coalition government delivers further blows to housing and transport projects

Earlier this week housing associations warned that budget cuts and a shake-up of planning laws had dealt a ‘catastrophic blow’ to affordable housing, with starts set to fall this year to the lowest levels since 1991.

The number of retrofit projects, however, has boomed in the past year, according to industry monitor Glenigan, accounting for 28 per cent of social-housing projects starting on site in April.

Alan Wilen of Glenigan said: ‘New building programmes are likely to bear the brunt of the funding cuts whereas in contrast housing association’s access to private funding should offer some shelter for estate renewal programmes.’

Russell Brown, director at Hawkins\Brown, said: ‘Refurbishment is a trend that is going to stay.’ His practice is working on several retrofit projects, including the £160 million revamp of Sheffield’s Park Hill housing estate (pictured).

Mark Siddall of Devereux Architects agrees. He thinks 1,500 homes per day must be retrofitted to meet the government’s target to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. He said: ‘Retrofits does stand a strong chance of being something architects can engage with throughout this period.’

Transport projects also face the axe, with 62 schemes placed under review by the Department for Transport (DfT). Knight Architects’ £431 million Mersey Gateway bridge will be assessed for value for money by transport secretary Philip Hammond.

Practice director Martin Knight is confident the project will go ahead: ‘I believe the Mersey Gateway will score very highly in this respect as it will bring major economic and transport benefits to the North West.’

Markland Klaschka’s £15 million park-and-ride scheme for Buckinghamshire County Council is also under threat, as is Spence Associates’ £128 million New Wear Bridge in Sunderland, which is dependent on funding worth £98 million from the DfT.

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