It’s a dilemma perhaps best exemplified by the high profile row over M&S’ flagship store on Oxford Street and whether it should be refurbished rather than demolished to save carbon.

A public inquiry has now considered that question in London and the Secretary of State Michael Gove has refused the demolition of the retailer’s Orchard House building.

The decision is nationally significant and speaks to the wider question of what role the UK property and construction industries play in decarbonising the economy.

For many cities such as Birmingham the debate about the reuse of buildings is also intensifying.

Against this backdrop and the ESG agenda, developers and asset owners are becoming acutely aware of the financial and environmental risk of owning a building that could be considered a stranded asset in a low carbon society.

As we transition to net zero and the embodied carbon agenda shapes more planning decisions, what factors do developers, asset owners and their professional teams need to consider?

How could ‘retrofirst’ potentially shape high streets and cities? Will this change investment decisions and the choices that occupiers make when looking for a new workspace? Is policy providing sufficient guidance to the developer community?

In summer 2023, Camargue brought together professionals from across the built environment to discuss these critical questions. The debate was appropriately hosted in The Exchange, a University of Birmingham building in the city centre which has been sensitively given a new lease of life as a civic hub.