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M&S begins High Court challenge over Marble Arch redevelopment

Sophie Smith
13 February 2024

Marks & Spencer has kicked off its High Court challenge over the blocking of its Marble Arch flagship redevelopment, which would include the demolition and rebuild of the site. 

The retailer has accused Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, of "misinterpreting and wrongly applying the planning policy" in his previous decision to turn down its plans on heritage and environmental grounds.

Sacha Berendji, Operations Director at Marks & Spencer, said: "Today we will set out our case for why the Secretary of State’s decision to block our proposed redevelopment of our Marble Arch site – which ignored advice from the independent planning inspector and support from Westminster City Council, the London Mayor and Greater London Authority – misinterpreted and wrongly applied planning policy, with every one of the six counts we raised approved by the Court to proceed to this hearing.

"When our proposal to bring one of London’s most sustainable and energy efficient buildings into the heart of the West End is rejected and other schemes with lower sustainability benefits are going ahead, it makes it impossible for developers to interpret planning policy, freezing investment and leading many to ask ‘why bother’, which is a disaster for the economy and the transition to Net Zero. We look forward to making our case to the Court."

M&S was previously given permission to demolish the building and replace it with a new, modern store alongside office and leisure facilities. However, the decision was overturned by Gove last year.

There had been objections to the plans to demolish the Art Deco facade from heritage groups and environmental campaigners, with Gove saying 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 it would likely drive footfall to the Marble Arch end of London's Oxford Street.

M&S CEO Stuart Machin 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.

The High Court then granted the retailer a right to appeal Gove's decision towards the end of last year, which is taking place from today.

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