M&S threatens to shut down Oxford Street flagship if rebuild is refused

26th October 2022 | Lucy Millar

M&S has warned of plans to shut down its Oxford Street flagship store if it is not permitted to demolish its current Art Deco building. The retailer has proposed plans to build a new store in its prime Marble Arch location, along with offices, an arcade, a cafe and a gym.

Due to heritage and environmental concerns, opponents of the project have asked the company to renovate the existing buildings at 458 Oxford Street rather than demolish them. Despite strong opposition, M&S has said that it is ‘unsustainable’ to continue trading in its current premises.

Russell Harris KC, representing M&S, argued that there are no ‘heritage’ reasons to preserve the buildings, as they are not listed and are not located within Westminster’s conservation areas.

Harris said the demolition would allow M&S to bring a “new flagship store of high architectural quality” to Oxford Street, and added that the current building “has a smell, a tangible, unmistakable expression of decline.” He noted that the retailer would “not be made to trade” in the current buildings and that it would not invest further in the site if its plans were refused, warning that no other retailer would take over the site.

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

The retailer’s threat to close its flagship store “if they don’t get their way,” according to Fraser, was “not the constructive attitude of a retailer committed to the future of Oxford Street.”

He said 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 has previously stated that the new, more environmentally friendly building will eventually offset any carbon impact caused by the demolition.

A public inquiry to decide if the scheme will go ahead, which is expected to last two weeks, is due to continue this week.


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