Skip to content
Book valuation
Rebuild vs Refit: A Catch 22?

Rebuild vs Refit: A Catch 22?

Thu 11 Apr 2024


The recent London M&S saga, with its overturned demolition ban, has re-ignited the debate on rebuilding versus refitting in our town and city centres. 

It was a triumph for the retailer last month when it won its legal challenge against Secretary of State Michael Gove's refusal to allow its Marble Arch store to be demolished and rebuilt.

However, Mr Gove still has to consider a re-submitted planning application before granting approval.

In Norwich, we have Debenhams' proposed redevelopment of its huge Red Lion Street former store also on hold after a request for an archaeological review. Norfolk County Council officers have asked for a full assessment to be carried out before any work begins to convert the building into 400 student flats and new shops.  

These cases highlight the challenges that can leave large buildings empty and hinder investment. 

Rebuilding offers the chance to create modern, energy-efficient structures, potentially attracting a wider range of businesses. However, the planning process can be lengthy and fraught with hurdles, as seen with Debenhams. Archaeological reviews, concerns over historical preservation and lengthy approval times can stall projects for years. 

Refitting existing buildings seems like a quicker and potentially more sustainable option. However, older structures might not be suitable for modern retail needs. Converting them into residential spaces is an option, but this requires significant structural changes and may not be financially viable. 

These cases highlight the challenges that can leave large buildings empty and hinder investment."
Robert Flint, Commercial Surveyor, Norwich

This creates a catch-22 situation. Large, vacant buildings become eyesores, deterring further investment. Businesses hesitate to invest in outdated structures with uncertain futures.

The result? Stagnant town and city centres with limited appeal for shoppers and businesses alike. 

So, what's the solution? Perhaps a more nuanced approach is needed. Streamlining the planning process while ensuring responsible development could be key.

Additionally, exploring creative refitting solutions that consider both historical preservation and modern needs could be a step forward. 

Ultimately, reviving our retail hubs requires collaboration. Working together, businesses, developers, and local authorities can find a way to navigate the complexities of rebuilding or refitting, ensuring our High Streets thrive once again. 

For more information, please contact Robert Flint, Commercial Surveyor in our Norwich office on 01603 629871. 

Eastern Daily Press article

Is there ever a clear winner between rebuilding and refurbishing?

The answer depends on the specific situation. Some factors to consider are:

  • Condition of the existing building: If the building is structurally unsound or outdated beyond adaptation, rebuilding might be necessary.
  • Desired outcome: If energy efficiency and modern amenities are priorities, rebuilding offers advantages. However, if historical preservation is a concern, refurbishing might be preferable.
  • Planning permission: The complexity of the local planning process can significantly impact timelines and costs. Refurbishing may be quicker if permissions are less stringent.

Can existing buildings always be repurposed?

Existing building cannot always be repurposed. Converting a building to a new use type can be challenging. It depends on:

  • Original design: Buildings designed for specific purposes may not have the flexibility to accommodate new layouts or infrastructure needs.
  • Structural integrity: Large-scale changes like adding floors or altering weight distribution might require significant structural reinforcement, impacting costs.
  • Financial viability: The cost of conversion needs to be weighed against the potential return on investment for the new use.

Keep updated

Keep up-to-date with our latest news and updates. Sign up below and we'll add you to our mailing list.

Saved properties (0)