SAVE endorses the AJ’s RetroFirst Campaign

5 March 2020

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has endorsed the Architect’s Journal’s RetroFirst Campaign, joining growing calls by architects, developers and heritage bodies for the recycling not demolition of our existing (historic) buildings. 

The AJ’s RetroFirst campaign, now endorsed by over 200 organisations, calls for ‘government action’ in areas such as taxation, policy and procurement to encourage retrofitting and refurbishing existing buildings in order to slash carbon emissions. Historic England’s most recent Heritage Counts report There’s no place like old homes (released 29 February 2020) also makes the strong case for cutting VAT rates for those seeking to retrofit and re-use historic buildings.  

SAVE’s current major campaign to avert the near total demolition of grade II* Richmond House echoes these calls for a new environmentally and historically sustainable approach.  Working with Mark Hines architects, SAVE has released alternative plans for a temporary MPs Chamber in the courtyard of Richmond House, which would see the building retained and re-used.  

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “SAVE fully supports the AJ's RetroFirst campaign. Richmond House is a great example of what could be done in terms of a low energy retro fit for the future. It is in the top 6 per cent of the mostly highly listed buildings in the country, at risk of being lost because all the advantages of re-using the existing building, and its historical importance, have not been considered thoroughly enough.

“By retaining and re-using Richmond House, Parliament could invite all the Local Planning Authorities across the UK to come and see the clear environmental advantages and opportunities of retrofitting a building at the heart of their estate. The construction of the Scottish Assembly building went famously over budget. The English temporary parliament, slotted into the courtyard of a retained and retro-fitted Richmond House, could be a national exemplar and at least £500m cheaper than the current proposals. We simply don't need to demolish Richmond House.”

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “For years those seeking to rescue and revive older buildings have struggled under a heavy VAT penalty which is not applied to new buildings. SAVE’s first hard hitting report was published in the AJ in 1975. In this we said “Buildings – and not just historic ones – represent energy, labour and materials, which either cannot be replaced, or can only be replaced at enormous cost’. Forty-five years later this is an idea whose time has come” 

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for the retention and re-use of listed and unlisted historic buildings since its formation in 1975. Over the past month our campaigns have been featured in the Architects' JournalCountry Life MagazinePrivate EyeThe Evening StandardThe TimesThe Eastern Daily Press and Southampton’s Daily Echo.




Note to editors:

1. For more information and images contact Ben Oakley, Conservation Officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage: / 020 7253 3500.

2. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.