M&S Oxford Street demolition plans knocked down by Michael Gove

20th July 2023 | Jack Oliver

Marks & Spencer’s plans to demolish its flagship Oxford Street store have been rejected by the secretary of state Michael Gove.

M&S boss Stuart Machin branded the decision as “utterly pathetic”.

“We have been clear from the outset that there is no other viable scheme”, he said. “So after almost a century at Marble Arch, M&S is now left with no choice but to review its future position on Oxford Street on the whim of one man.”

Westminster City Council had previously approved proposals for the retailer to knock down the historic store to make way for a new shop, a café, a gym, and offices.

However communications secretary Michael Gove delayed the ruling after facing pressure from heritage and environmental campaigners who wanted to save the art deco building.

M&S then threatened to shut down its flagship store at No.458 if its rebuilding plans were refused.

The plans were rejected on the grounds that the public benefits would not outweigh the harm to local landmarks, including the Selfridges department store and a number of conservation areas.

A large carbon footprint and that the failure to reuse existing buildings were also listed as reasons for refusal.

M&S chair Archie Norman said on Twitter that the government’s position was “not just a blow for M&S, but for Oxford street and inner city regeneration across the UK”.

M&S had previously argued that because the building is not listed nor is it in a heritage area, there was no reason the plans should be rejected on heritage grounds.

The retailer has previously said that a conversion of the existing building presented serious challenges, with asbestos on the site making any refurbishment a health risk to workers. It also said many parts of the building including its staff area need updating.

Matthew Fraser of advocacy organisation SAVE had said: “The heritage impacts have been considerably underestimated by M&S and are not outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme.”

He added that the construction of the new building would release nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 (40m kg), which would be “the equivalent of driving a typical car 99 million miles, further than the distance to the sun”. However, M&S had argued that the new building would eventually offset any carbon impact caused by the demolition.


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