M&S appeals Gove’s rejection of Oxford Street rebuild

Marks & Spencer has launched legal action against the government’s decision to block its controversial redevelopment in Oxford Street, central London.

Operations director Sacha Berendji said that housing secretary Michael Gove had “wrongly interpreted and applied planning policy” in rejecting the retailer’s plans to demolish and rebuild its flagship store in July.

He added: “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.”

M&S received approval from Westminster City Council in November 2021 to knock down the historic building complex near Marble Arch and replace it with a 10-storey mixed-use office and retail development.

However, Gove later ordered an inquiry into the scheme after criticism about its environmental impact.

Planning inspector David Nicholson had recommended that Gove approve the plans, affirming M&S’s argument that if the large site was left vacant, it could harm the viability of Oxford Street.

In his decision to reject M&S’s proposal, Gove said the public benefits of the new site “would not outweigh” the heritage harm caused by demolishing the existing building. He also cited concerns about the extent of embodied carbon the new development would cause.

Henrietta Billings, director of campaign group 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.”

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