M&S oxford street

Source: M&S

M&S’s proposed new building

Marks & Spencer is launching a legal challenge against levelling up secretary Michael Gove’s decision to block the retailer’s Oxford Street store redevelopment plans.

M&S claims that in rejecting the plans in July, Gove wrongly interpreted and applied planning policy.

It comes after M&S CEO Stuart Machin accused Gove of making a decision that would damage high streets in pursuit of “cheap shot headlines”, in a furious response to the decision last month.

“Today we have launched a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reject our Marble Arch store proposal,” M&S operations director Sacha Berendji said this morning.

“We have done this because we believe the secretary of state wrongly interpreted and applied planning policy, to justify his rejection of our scheme on grounds of heritage and environmental concerns.

“It is hugely disappointing that after two years of support and approvals at every stage, we have been forced to take legal action to overcome a misguided agenda against our scheme, and we will be challenging this to the fullest extent possible.”

M&S’s proposal to knock down the 93-year-old art deco building near London’s Marble Arch and replace it with a modern retail and office complex had been approved by Westminster council.

But following opposition from heritage and environmental campaigners, the decision was called in last year by Gove, who launched an inquiry.

The plans were rejected by Gove last month on the grounds the public benefits would not outweigh harm to nearby heritage sites, including the Selfridges department store and conservation areas.