Jun 22, 2022
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M&S slams cabinet minister Gove over public inquiry into Marble Arch store plans

Jun 22, 2022

M&S has lost its patience over long-running delays surrounding the demolition and rebuild of its flagship store at the Marble Arch end of London’s Oxford Street.

The UK retail giant has attacked the latest decision by government minister Michael Gove to halt its redevelopment as “political grandstanding”.

Originally, M&S had secured approval from Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority to demolish the landmark and build a new 10-storey retail and office block.

Sacha Berendji, Group Property, Store Development and Technology Director for M&S said: “After two years of working with Westminster City Council, the GLA and the local business and resident community which has supported the development at every stage, we are bewildered and disappointed at Michael Gove’s baseless decision to call in the proposed redevelopment of our Marble Arch site.” 

He added: “The Secretary of State has blocked the only retail-led regeneration in the whole of Oxford Street in a building which was refused listed status due to its low design quality and, while safe, cannot be modernised through refitting as its three separate buildings contain asbestos. 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.” 

However, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has seized control of the planning application amid concerns about the environmental impact.

A DLUHC spokesman said: “This is a disappointing and misleading statement from M&S. Call-in decisions are made in line with established policy. It is right that a project of such significance should be considered by the independent planning inspectorate and ministers.”

The intervention comes after Gove issued a so-called Article 31 order forcing developers to put the project on hold. It will now be referred to a public inquiry overseen by the independent planning inspector, which will present its recommendation to the government. The process is expected to take at least six months.

Either Gove or a junior minister will decide on the future of the project after the planning inspector reports back.

Earlier, Simon Sturgis, an architect and adviser to the Greater London Authority, had warned the redevelopment would produce around 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide before the new building even came into use.

But M&S said a review by independent environmental consultants found the new, low-carbon building would more than offset any emissions from the redevelopment.

The retailer said it was confident in this analysis, which also stated the new building would be among the top 10% buildings in London for sustainability.

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