Plans by M&S to demolish its Oxford Street – Marble Arch store and replace it with a smaller store and more offices have been put on hold after the Communities Secretary Michael Gove called the scheme in for review.
The M&S store is made up of three separate buildings that were joined internally to make one shop. The Edwardian classic frontage, Orchard House on the corner, a 1980s red brick building, Neale House, and around the side, a last 1960s era building on Orchard Street.
There has been growing opposition to the plans by Pilbrow & Partners, focused mainly on the impact of the demolition of the 1930s corner building on heritage, and the whole scheme on its carbon emissions impact.
Approved by Westminster Council last November, last month, the Mayor of London declined to intervene to prevent the buildings from being demolished, although there are claims that the demolition would be in breach of the Mayor’s recently updated policies on reducing embodied carbon in construction projects.
There have also been claims that critical reports about the climate impact of the redevelopment by the architect and GLA climate adviser, Simon Sturgis had not been considered by the Mayor’s office.
The latest development came after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) issued an Article 31 order which put the project on hold, giving it time to decide if the government will use its powers to call in Westminster council’s planning decision in for review.
“A direction preventing Westminster Council from issuing a final decision on this application was issued on the 14 April 2022, in order to allow ministers to consider whether the application should be ‘called-in’ for them to determine,” a DLUCH spokesperson confirmed. “The application will now be assessed against the published policy on calling-in applications and a decision will be issued in due course.”
The government could call the project in for review, in which case there will be a public inquiry into it, as happened recently with The Tulip. The decision by the government to block that building was based in part on its embodied carbon impact, and much of the argument against the demolition of the M&S building is based on the same issue.
There is also a request to grant the building a listing status as a heritage asset based on a report from Historic England, which is still pending. However, that would likely only affect the 1930s third of the building, leaving the rest to still be demolished.