M&S takes legal action against government block on Oxford Street store

The permission for Marks & Spencer (M&S) to demolish and rebuild the store on Oxford Street has been refused
M&S is aiming to demolish the Art Deco building and replace it with a new 10-storey complex that combines both retail and office space. Photo: Vuk Valcic/Alamy Live News

Marks and Spencer (M&S) (MKS.L) has begun legal action against a government decision to block the rebuild its Oxford Street flagship store.

Last month Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, refused permission for M&S to demolish and redevelop the store near Marble Arch in London.

It came as campaigners raised concerns about the potential carbon footprint of the multi-million-pound redevelopment.

The retailer is aiming to demolish the Art Deco building and replace it with a new 10-storey complex that combines both retail and office space.

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

“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.”

At the time, Gove said the block was partly made because it would “fail to support the transition to a low-carbon future, and would overall fail to encourage the reuse of existing resources, including the conversion of existing buildings”.

He overruled an earlier decision by Westminster Council which had the support of local businesses including the likes of Selfridges.

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According to M&S, the current building, which was established in 1929, is “riddled with asbestos”, and demolition is the only way to bring the building up to modern standards. The retailer has warned it may now be forced to shut the store altogether.

Chief executive Stuart Machin previously said: "We have been clear from the outset that there is no other viable scheme – so, after almost a century at Marble Arch, M&S is now left with no choice but to review its future position on Oxford Street on the whim of one man. It is utterly pathetic."

But those against the redevelopment have warned that it would release 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, while heritage groups have called for the building to be preserved.

Shares in the company were up 1.5% on the day in London as it was revealed the retail group would be re-joining the FTSE 100 after a relegation and subsequent business turnaround.

It returns to the London's benchmark index alongside technical products supplier Diploma, and drugmakers Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Dechra Pharmaceuticals.

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