IMPORTANT Website terms of use and cookie statement

RIBA President and The Prince’s Foundation host “town hall” meeting to champion retrofit

Muyiwa Oki, the new President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and The Prince’s Foundation are hosting a ‘town hall’ meeting in Lancashire on 20 September, to spark a national conversation about the reuse of existing buildings as an alternative to demolition and rebuild.

20 September 2023

Muyiwa Oki, the new President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and The Prince’s Foundation are hosting a ‘town hall’ meeting in Lancashire on 20 September, to spark a national conversation about the reuse of existing buildings as an alternative to demolition and rebuild. 

Oki, who began his two-year term as RIBA President this month, has pledged to champion the adoption of retrofit – the upgrading of existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency, longevity, and flexibility.  The Prince’s Foundation has long championed harmony between the built and natural environments and has worked on the restoration of many buildings including Dumfries House in Ayrshire and Draper’s Hall in Coventry.  

The meeting, held at the former Fleetwood Hospital, owned by the Fleetwood Trust, aims to encourage debate about retrofit and highlight the need for coordinated public and cross-sector action and engagement. It will bring together architects, clients, homeowners, local authority representatives, businesses, local community groups, students and architecture schools, serving as a pilot, with the potential for further meetings across the country. 

The Prince’s Foundation and the Fleetwood Trust have been working towards repurposing the former hospital building – a much loved local landmark and one of the largest buildings in the area – to create a new community hub. The hospital ceased being used as an NHS ward in 2009 and in 2018 the Fleetwood Trust raised enough money to buy the building. It is located in Pharos ward, which is in the top 5% most deprived wards in the UK, where people have among the lowest life expectancy (65 to 77 as shown on the index of multiple deprivation 2019), 20% of children live in poverty, and 36% of people have no qualifications. The new mixed-use community hub will include a creative space, health and wellbeing facilities, a community café, education and skills training, a youth hub, garden and food bank. 

Chaired by Oki, speakers at the meeting will include: George Clarke, architect, TV presenter and ambassador for The Prince’s Foundation; Sarah Robinson, Associate Director at The Prince’s Foundation; Tim Heatley, property developer and co-founder of Capital & Centric; Elsie Owusu, Architect and Specialist Conservation Architect, interior and urban designer; Dan Atkinson, Oxford Brookes Architecture student; and Lord Tom McNally, British politician and a former Leader of the Liberal Democrats in House of Lords who is the Chair of the Fleetwood Trust and sat on the select committee on regenerating seaside towns and communities. 

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki, said: 

"The built environment is responsible for around 40% of global carbon emissions and - in the UK alone - construction accounts for 60% of waste each year. Retrofit is a no-regrets solution to the climate crisis. As well as benefitting the planet, retrofit can also contribute to improving people’s lives through improved health and wellbeing and by creating more inclusive and welcoming spaces. And, upgrading rather than demolishing buildings, can preserve much-loved landmarks and buildings of significance to our shared heritage and local communities. 

Experts predict that 80% of the buildings that we will use in 2050 have already been built today. I believe that unless we radically change the way we build, operate, maintain, and adapt our built environment, we are headed for catastrophe. As a sector, we have the knowledge, expertise and the technology to address the climate emergency. The challenge is delivering change at the necessary speed and scale. A robust long-term strategy with a funding mechanism for homes and communities is key to achieving this.” 

Architect and Associate Director for Architecture and Heritage at The Prince’s Foundation, Sarah Robinson, said: 

“Fleetwood Hospital is an excellent example of reuse in action – re-purposing a beloved existing building for local community use. Its size, relatively recent age of construction, the energy contained in the materials it is built from, alongside its inherent social value make it a prime example of the types of buildings which need to find new functions in our communities and be sustainably reused.  

Civic and institutional buildings like this are commonplace throughout our towns across the country and reusing them is going to be a large part of the work of the day for young architects leaving education now – we need to make sure they are best equipped to do so – and that they can also find the joy in unlocking the design challenges they present.”  

CEO of The Fleetwood Trust, Charley Wilkinson, said:  

“We are delighted to be part of this excellent and timely initiative and to be able to host the event. It’s an opportunity to showcase the important work of the charity and this significant, communal building in Fleetwood.”  

Notes to editors: 

  1. Media contact: 
  2. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates. 
  3. The Prince’s Foundation provides holistic solutions to challenges facing the world today. We champion a sustainable approach to how we live our lives and build our communities, we run a diverse programme of education and training for all ages and backgrounds, we regenerate and care for places where communities thrive and visitors enjoy. 

Latest updates

keyboard_arrow_up To top