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Sustainability and the London Plan

Sustainability has rapidly made its way to the top of the agenda for policy makers, investors, occupiers and users of property

It is widely recognised that buildings play a major role in contributing to greenhouse gases. The built environment accounts for about 45% of annual carbon emissions, within urban areas, buildings (business and residential uses) are estimated to contribute 32% of UK carbon emissions and account for 50% of raw material consumption and 60% of the UK’s waste.

In London, following the publication of the London Plan in March 2021, new and
ambitious policies apply to most major development which places a much greater
emphasis on:

  • carbon reduction across the whole life cycle of the building
  • maximising energy efficiency
  • carbon offsetting, and the cost implications thereof
  • encouraging the retention of building structure, where possible
  • a general presumption against demolition of buildings; and
  • employing circular economy principles.


The London Plan now requires the whole life carbon implications of demolition and redevelopment to be assessed and considered as part of the planning balance. This is a very significant new issue that planning applications are required to address.

Planning and development strategies will need to change and evolve to take this into account. Carbon will need to be considered early, from the feasibility stage in all developments, but especially where referable to the Mayor of London. The carbon emissions associated with demolition and redevelopment vs retention and refurbishment / repurposing of an existing building will have a very considerable bearing on whether, or not, the principle of redevelopment can be agreed.

The London Plan formalises a change in practice which was already happening locally in parts of the Capital, but for some Boroughs it marks a radical change in policy and practice. There is also a much greater emphasis on monitoring and gathering data which the GLA hope to use to create tools which the industry can use to maximise sustainable development across the Capital.

This Briefing Note reflects on Gerald Eve’s recent experience of how these policies have been applied and their potential future implications.

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James Wickham


Tom Marshall