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Communities secretary welcomes AJ’s RetroFirst message

Robert jenrick
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Preserving and adapting existing buildings as championed by AJ’s RetroFirst campaign is ‘really important’, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said

Speaking yesterday (Thursday January 30) at the launch of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s final report, Jenrick said the government faced the challenge of retrofitting existing homes to meet its climate change targets and of regenerating neglected town centres.

He said: ‘Recycling or giving new life to existing buildings will be extremely important both to meet our climate change obligations and for our wider ambition as a government to “level up” and ensure that places which are undervalued and underappreciated get a brighter future.’

The AJ’s RetroFirst campaign, which was launched last September at the AJ’s annual Retrofit Awards, calls for government action to encourage greater use of retrofit and refurbishment in three key areas: taxation, procurement and policy.

It received a boost by being commended at the launch event by co-chair of the Commission Nicholas Boys Smith and is endorsed in the report itself.

Jenrick predicted that the government would implement the ‘lion’s share’ of the report’s 45 policy propositions but stopped short of agreeing that it should slash VAT on refurbishment and retrofit work as recommended by both RetroFirst and the Commission.

‘Many of [the report’s proposals] can be achieved by regulatory change such as amending the national planning policy framework and could be done quite quickly,’ Jenrick said.

‘Some are more complex and require primary legislation so that will have to be given further thought. And there are some tax changes in here which really are a matter for the chancellor. But I will be having conversations with him to consider them.’

Beautiful high quality homes must become the norm rather than the exception

Quizzed on the controversial Permitted Development Rights – which critics claim are creating the ‘slums of the future’  – Jenrick said: ‘We’ve already undertaken a review of the first PDR office to residential [schemes]. That did reveal there were some poor-quality homes created as a result and we are going to think carefully about how we learn the lessons of that.

‘PDRs have enabled us to bring forward tens of thousands of homes that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to people. But I want to ensure that we create a system which brings forward good-quality homes as well as meeting our housing needs. I think the two things can be married together.’

He added: ’‘Beautiful high quality homes must become the norm rather than the exception…let’s build more but build better.’

How you can get involved

Follow the progress of RetroFirst using #retrofirst on social media
Contact us at retrofirst@emap.com to back the campaign

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