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M&S launch legal challenge after Government blocks plan to demolish flagship Marble Arch store

The retailer wants to pull down the unlisted 1929 Orchard House and two other buildings at the western end of Oxford Street (Getty Images)
The retailer wants to pull down the unlisted 1929 Orchard House and two other buildings at the western end of Oxford Street (Getty Images)

Marks & Spencer on Thursday launched a legal challenge to Michael Gove’s decision to block it from demolishing its Marble Arch flagship.

The high street giant was infuriated by the Housing Secretary’s ruling last month which it condemned as “laughable” and “utterly pathetic.”

The retailer wants to pull down the unlisted 1929 Orchard House and two other buildings at the western end of Oxford Street and replace it with a new ten storey development.

The plan was approved by Westminster council, Sadiq Khan and a planning inspector despite being heavily criticised by conservation groups.

It has become a closely watched test case in the argument over whether ageing buildings should be refurbished and retrofitted rather than demolished and replaced because of the embodied carbon in them.

Marks has threatened to quit the site altogether if it not allowed to proceed with its plan in what would be a huge blow to Oxford Street.

Pilbrow & Partners' proposed plans for M&S' Marble Arch store
Pilbrow & Partners' proposed plans for M&S' Marble Arch store

Today Sacha Berendji, Operations Director at M&S said: “Today we have launched a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reject our Marble Arch store proposal.

“We have done this because we believe the Secretary of State wrongly interpreted and applied planning policy, to justify his rejection of our scheme on grounds of heritage and environmental concerns.

“It is hugely disappointing that after two years of support and approvals at every stage, we have been forced to take legal action to overcome a misguided agenda against our scheme, and we will be challenging this to the fullest extent possible.”

Save Britain’s Heritage was the biggest opponent to M&S’ plan at the public inquiry on the demolition.

Henrietta Billings, director of Save Britain’s Heritage, said: “This public inquiry raised highly significant national issues about the way we build, the wasteful demolition of perfectly good buildings and the future of our high streets. Our case generated widespread public support and media attention. Michael Gove made the right decision in dismissing the M&S demolition proposals and we hope that the Secretary of State and his department resolutely defend this case. We are considering our next steps and have every intention of maintaining our position.”

M&S has argued that the new building would be in the top 1% of London’s buildings in terms of sustainability and would pay back the carbon lost by demolition within 11 years.

But Gove questioned the reliability of the retailer’s calculations, concluding a rebuild would emit “far more” carbon than a refurbishment until the UK’s energy grid achieved net zero, a benchmark which is not set to be hit before 2035.

A Government spokesman said they were aware of the application but would not be commenting on ongoing proceedings.