‘Nonsensical’ Gove scuppers M&S store rebuild plan

Grant Prior 9 months ago
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M&S bosses have aimed a withering attack at Michael Gove after the Levelling Up Secretary refused plans to demolish and rebuild its flagship store on Oxford Street.

Gove’s decision to go against the recommendation of his planning inspectors was described as “pathetic” and “nonsensical” by M&S CEO Stuart Machin.

Plans for a new ten-storey steel and glass office complex on the site have been approved by Westminster City Council the GLA and planning inspector David Nicholson.

But Gove and his department have now disagreed with the planning experts after campaigners said the building should be refurbished because of the amount of embedded carbon it contains.

Machin said: “After a two-year process where our proposals were supported at every stage, our investment in 2,000 jobs, building one of the most sustainable buildings in London, improving the public realm and creating a flagship store, is now effectively in the deep freeze.

“Today the Secretary of State has ignored his appointed expert David Nicholson who recommended approval of our scheme.

“When 42 of the 269 shops on what should be our nation’s premier shopping street sit vacant, disregarding the expert opinion and approval of the appointed planning inspector and playing to the gallery by kiboshing the only retail-led regeneration proposal is a short-sighted act of self-sabotage by the Secretary of State and its effects will be felt far beyond M&S and the West End.

“It is particularly galling given there are currently 17 approved and proceeding demolitions in Westminster and four on Oxford Street alone, making it unfathomable why M&S’s proposal to redevelop an aged and labyrinthian site that has been twice denied listed status has been singled out for refusal.

“The suggestion the decision is on the grounds of sustainability is nonsensical. With retrofit not an option – despite us reviewing sixteen different options – our proposed building would have ranked in the top 1% of the entire city’s most sustainable buildings.

“It would have used less than a quarter of the energy of the existing structure, reduced water consumption by over half, and delivered a carbon payback within 11 years of construction. It is also completely at odds with the inquiry process where the analysis on sustainability, including from independent experts Arup, was accepted.

“Towns and cities up and down the country will feel the full effects of this chilling decision, with decaying buildings and brownfield sites now destined to remain empty as developers retreat.

“Today the Secretary of State has signalled he is more interested in cheap shot headlines than facts and if it weren’t so serious it would be laughable.

“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.”

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