Furious Marks & Spencer bosses say they are “bewildered and disappointed” by Michael Gove’s “baseless” decision to call in their planning application for a new flagship store at Marble Arch.
The retail giant wants to demolish the existing 92 year old Art Deco building next to Selfridge’s on Oxford Street and replace it with a ten storey steel and glass retail and office complex.
The proposal has been strongly criticised by environmental campaigners who argue that it should be refurbished instead to save “embedded carbon” emissions. However the scheme had been approved by Westminster council and the GLA before the Levelling Up Secretary’s dramatic intervention last night.
There will now be a full enquiry led by an insepctor into a proposal that would see the destruction of a long standing West End retail landmark.
But Sacha Berendji, Group Property, Store Development and Technology Director dismissed the move as “political grandstanding.”
He 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.
“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 it’s three separate buildings containing 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.
He added: “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.”
Dee Corsi, chief operating office at business group New West End Company, backed M&S in the dispute.
She said: “Securing a bright and prosperous future for Oxford Street requires high levels of investment and development. It is vital that the Council and businesses redouble efforts to work together to deliver the long-awaited public realm investment, and ensure progressive planning and licencing policies are in place to enable businesses to respond to changing customer trends, by delivering innovative and future proof buildings that are fit for purpose for a revived, dynamic high street.”