Marks & Spencer can challenge block on Marble Arch redevelopment
Marks & Spencer has won the right to challenge the decision by Communities Secretary Michael Gove to block the redevelopment of its Marble Arch store.
Despite the retail giant receiving permission to demolish its existing store and redevelop the site to include a new, modern store, leisure facilities and office accommodation, Gove overruled the decision in July after launching an inquiry.
There had been objections to the plans to demolish the Art Deco facade from heritage groups and environmental campaigners and Gove said the plans risked compromising other nearby landmarks such as the Selfridges store built in the early 1900s. However, Selfridges had previously spoken out in support of Marks & Spencer's plans saying they would drive footfall to the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street.
Following Gove's decision, Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “The Marks & Spencer application had significant implications for the environment so it was right the case should be tested robustly. The Council’s position is to encourage landowners to refurbish buildings, not demolish them.
“Clearly this is a disappointing day for M&S but we hope they return with a revised scheme which meets the new tests presented by the climate emergency. Footfall on Oxford Street is improving and with our exciting plan for an overhaul of Oxford Street just launched, M&S can remain a powerful presence.”
M&S CEO Stuart Machin had responded furiously to the decision saying the existing building was riddled with asbestos and retro-fitting a modern store into the old facade was not feasible. At the time he described the decision as "unfathomable" and suggested the retailer might walk away from the site altogether.
However today in a statement Machin said the High Court had granted the retailer a right to appeal Gove's decision.
"Today we received confirmation that the High Court has recognised the merits of our legal challenge on Marble Arch. Every single one of the six counts we raised has been recognised, which means our case has been approved to proceed to the next stage of Judicial Review.
"We have been clear from the very start that refurbishment of the existing store is not possible, so this is only the first step in the lengthy process of overturning the government’s senseless decision to reject our Marble Arch proposal – the only retail-led regeneration on Oxford Street.
"With the investment and amazing plans we have to transform the site into a modern, sustainable building, it remains bewildering that we are again having to go through all of this after two years of support and approvals.
"But we will do everything necessary to secure a better future at Marble Arch for our local customers, our colleagues and our community," he said.