Building a business case for an able-to-pay retrofit scheme

In 2019, Hampshire County Council formed a commission of inquiry to identify the major drivers of change in Hampshire to 2050. The commission found that climate change was one of the biggest drivers, and a climate emergency was declared.

This case study is a part of the LGA's Regional Retrofit Action Planning programme

Executive summary and top tips

  • Identifying partners and engaging both internally and externally is vital.
  • Understanding schemes from elsewhere, how they work, their successes and their failures provides a critical starting point.
  • Understanding your own local context and how this may affect the acceptance and implementation of any such scheme offers a frame for the business case.
  • Having knowledge of the target market – what is the condition of the buildings? Who owns the buildings and what is their appetite and ability to engage in retrofit? What is the state of the local supply chain and what is its outlook?


In 2019, Hampshire County Council formed a commission of inquiry to identify the major drivers of change in Hampshire to 2050. The commission found that climate change was one of the biggest drivers, and a climate emergency was declared. Further work by the New Economics Foundation identified retrofit as one of the most impactful areas through which the council could drive economic recovery from the pandemic as well as addressing the climate crisis.

While the council has previously been involved in delivering retrofit schemes, notably Insulate Hampshire in 2012, it has not been responsible for the delivery of central government funded programmes such as LAD and ECO. The council also has no social housing stock so is not directly responsible for housing retrofit.

Understanding the baseline

To make a case for retrofit on a county-wide scale understanding the housing stock, its current performance, and what interventions would be required to decarbonise it are crucial starting points. Hampshire County Council, with partial funding from the Southwest Net Zero Hub and contributions from district and borough councils, commissioned a report into the housing stock in Hampshire and what it would take to get to net zero. The analysis (delivered by Parity Projects) provided detailed information on every home in the county but also generated two headline figures:

  • £30 billion of total investment would be required to decarbonise every home.
  • Six thousand full-time equivalent jobs per year required to 2050 to deliver the necessary work.

The mission was clear. That amount of money would never be funded through any government scheme and the number of people required to do the work would never exist without support and clear direction.

Internal engagement

The scale of the retrofit challenge was clearly never about climate change alone. A £30 billion impact on the local economy meant retrofit needed to be central to future economic planning, and thousands of jobs in specific trades meant a concerted effort would be required from the skills and education teams. The co-benefits of better housing would also reach into public health, adult and child social care. It was the definition of a cross-cutting programme.

  1. Sharing the facts – making sure the report was seen by those teams that it may impact.
  2. Engaging widely – An internal stakeholder mapping exercise involved approaching contacts from across the organisations and asking them to add names and job titles to a database. Simultaneously, contacts were asked for external, partnership contacts that may be involved down the line.
  3. Online information session – All internal stakeholders from the mapping exercise were invited to an information session. This was delivered by Parity Projects (as authors of the report) whose expertise added weight to the meeting, but an internal lead would also have been effective.
  4. Further conversations – Continuing to engage with those most immediately relevant to the project led to independent workstreams, particularly in the Skills and Participation team who saw the need to begin developing retrofit skills as soon as possible.

External engagement

Following an initial stakeholder mapping exercise, engagement with external stakeholders began.

  1. Lower-tier councils – Ensuring the district, borough and unitary councils in the county were aware of the baseline report and proposed direction of travel.
  2. “Advocate” Groups – Using our existing networks to reach climate action groups, community energy groups, behaviour change groups, energy advice centres, universities and others who could be advocates (or delivery partners) for a retrofit scheme, we ran a half-day session to workshop how best to involve these partners and design the scheme.
  3. Supply Chain – While difficult to get lots of representatives from the supply chain in the same room at the same time this engagement workshop provided a crucial voice to employers (with particular focus on local SMEs). What they wanted to see in a scheme and how they would like to be involved in the process were two crucial discussion points.
  4. Colleges and Training Providers – building the supply chain starts in schools and colleges. An engagement event with internal skills colleagues, local colleges, LEPs and private training providers helped get the ball rolling. The skills and participation team then took ownership of this workstream and began a relationship with The Retrofit Academy.

Resident survey

Building on the evidence collected from the engagement workshops a simple online survey was sent to a target audience. Using social media ads to target homeowners in a likely able-to-pay demographic we sought to understand what homeowners who were able to self-finance wanted from a scheme. The headline findings were:

  • eighty per cent think more about their home’s energy use now than 12 months ago
  • while cost was the main barrier, knowing what to do and where to start were also common
  • forty-three per cent would like an end-to-end service (or one-stop shop) and 62 per cent would like some form of advice
  • eighty per cent would feel more confident if the scheme was backed by the council.

Business case development and review

Parity Projects developed a business case based on a self-sustaining model that charges homeowners and contractors a small fee while providing whole house plans and retrofit coordination. The model was based on the successful Cosy Homes Oxfordshire model but incorporated the local flavour borne out through the engagement activities detailed above.

This was then shared with internal colleagues in legal, finance and procurement while a high-level briefing was given to senior management. Comments from colleagues were incorporated into a briefing note that is the core document for taking the scheme towards launch.

Next steps

  1. Engagement – Inclusivity is a fundamental characteristic of this scheme. However, the scheme is finally delivered it must be with those already working in the sector and those advocate groups who can reach deep into communities with a trusted voice. Continued engagement with these groups is therefore critical.
  2. Finance – Around £500,000 is required to kickstart the scheme. The raising of this funding is still an unanswered question. Presenting a sleek and well finished business case both internally and externally will help attract funding and partners.
  3. Launch – Learning from other schemes around the country and remaining adaptable is crucial. Being open to what works may be a key to a successful scheme in a policy context that is changing rapidly and remains uncertain.