Demolition contractors delight in M&S victory

The old Marble Arch store that M&S wants to replace

When Michael Gove, secretary of state at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC), blocked Marks & Spencer’s plans last summer, the retailer went to court to challenge the decision.

On Friday 1st March the High Court ruled that the secretary of state’s planning decision was unlawful.

Marks & Spencer wants to knock down its store near Marble Arch on London’s Oxford Street and rebuild it. Its planning application went to public inquiry in autumn 2022, resulting in a recommendation from the inspector that permission be granted. However, Gove argued that demolition and rebuild was a less sustainable option than refurbishment and blocked the plan. In doing so he was accused of killing the ambitions of British retailers and threatening the future of high streets. [See previous report here.]

On winning the court ruling, M&S operations director Sacha Berendji said: “Today’s judgment couldn’t be clearer. The court has agreed with our arguments on five out of the six counts we brought forward and ruled that the secretary of state’s decision to block the redevelopment of our Marble Arch store was unlawful. The result has been a long, unnecessary and costly delay to the only retail-led regeneration on Oxford Street which would deliver one of London’s greenest buildings, create thousands of new jobs and rejuvenate the capital’s premier shopping district.

“The secretary of state now has the power to unlock the wide-ranging benefits of this significant investment and send a clear message to UK and global business that the government supports sustainable growth and the regeneration of our towns and cities.”

Demolition contractors were also delighted. The National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) said: “The NFDC is glad to see today’s High Court ruling, though it is unfortunate that the operations of a prime site in one of the UK’s flagship retail districts has been disrupted, delaying its much-welcomed carbon footprint improvements.

“We applaud the team at M&S and everyone involved in the project for championing a sensible mindset to sustainable redevelopment, which considers the entire life cycle of the site, rather than applying a  ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.”

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