A plan to demolish the Marks and Spencer store at the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street has been called in by the government for a review. There has been growing opposition to the plans by Pilbrow & Partners to demolish the old M&S store and replace it with a smaller store and more offices, with the objections focused mainly on the impact of the demolition of the 1930s corner building on heritage, and the whole scheme on its carbon emissions impact.
Although the contentious scheme was approved by Westminster Council last November, and the Mayor of London refused to block it, demolition was blocked when the Communities Secretary Michael Gove issued an Article 31 order which put the project on hold, giving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) time to decide if the government will use its powers to call in Westminster council’s planning decision in for review.
They have now confirmed that they are calling the scheme in for review that could either uphold Westminster Council’s decision, or overturn it.
Responding to the decision to call in the development for review, Sacha Berendji, Group Property, Store Development and Technology Director at M&S said that the company is “bewildered and disappointed at Michael Gove’s baseless decision to call in the proposed redevelopment of our Marble Arch site.” adding that “Twenty percent of units on Oxford Street lay vacant and the Secretary of State appears to prefer a proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods to a gold-standard retail-led regeneration of the nation’s favourite high street. ”
“For a government purportedly focussed on the levelling up agenda, calling in this significant investment in one of our most iconic shopping locations will have a chilling affect for regeneration programmes across the country at a time when many town centres are being left behind and the property market is ever more precarious.”
In their letter calling in the planning decision, the DLUHC is seeking more information about how the development complies with existing government policies on conserving the historic environment and how the development complies with local development policies.
The department recently blocked the development of The Tulip in the City of London in part due to the embedded CO2 within the new building, and here on Oxford Street, much of the objections were based on the waste from demolishing instead of refurbishing the old building.
Apart from the historic 1930s facade of the corner element of the M&S building, the rest of the building is made up of a 1980s red brick building, Neale House, and around the side, a last 1960s era building on Orchard Street.
Now that the planning decision has been called in, there is likely to be a public inquiry later this year which will decide its fate.