M&S oxford street

Source: Pilbrow and Partners

The proposed redesign plan by Pilbrow and Partners

Marks & Spencer has been left “bewildered and disappointed” after Michael Gove decided to call in the proposed development plans for its flagship Marble Arch store.

The retailer’s plans to demolish the current 92-year-old building on 458 Oxford Street and replace it with a modern retail and office complex had previously been greenlit by the Mayor of London and Westminster City Council.

But now, Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) decided to call in the planning application after months of debate over the redevelopment’s potential environmental impact.

M&S property, store development and technology director Sacha Berendji slammed Gove for allowing “a proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods” over a “gold-standard retail-led regeneration” of Oxford Street.

“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.”

Campaign groups have opposed the proposal to bulldoze the historical building on London’s Oxford Street, claiming it will hinder the local Edwardian architecture and affect the adjacent buildings – such as Selfridges – and have instead asked for it to be refitted.

However, Berendji said the building had a “low design quality” and could not be modernised through refitting only as its three separate buildings contained asbestos.

He also warned that “political grandstanding” would have a “chilling effect 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”.

Back in April, the DLUHC had halted the plans pending further scrutiny after a report on the potential carbon footprint of demolishing the building raised concerns.

Now, there will be a full inquiry into the proposal to assert whether the long-term benefits of the modernised building outweigh the short-term impact of the redevelopment.

Newly appointed Westminster Councillor Geoff Barraclough, cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “The council is serious about reducing the environmental impact of new development by emphasising the benefits of retrofitting over demolition.

“The M&S proposal has major implications in sustainability terms, and we are pleased that the government has called in the application so that all the issues raised by this case can be rigorously tested.”