SAVE welcomes Secretary of State's ruling on M&S Oxford St

20th July, 2023

Statement by SAVE Britain’s Heritage on today’s annnouncement by the Secretary of State refusing permission for M&S to demolish and replace its Oxford Street flagship

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says:

“This is a hugely important decision that rightly challenges the way we continually and needlessly knock down and rebuild important buildings across our towns and cities. Repurposing and converting buildings we cherish and saving thousands of tonnes of C02 in the process is a no brainer. This is a massive positive step and we salute the Secretary of State.”

Simon Sturgis, SAVE’s expert witness on embodied carbon at the inquiry & founder of carbon consultancy Targeting Zero, says:

“Congratulations to Michael Gove for a very important and influential decision. This shows that the government is serious about the climate crisis and understands that real change is needed if we are to achieve net zero by 2050. We must now progress with nationwide guidance on planning and building regulations (eg Part Z) to support this decision and deliver carbon reductions across the entire built environment industry.”



1/ For more information and interview requests contact Elizabeth Hopkirk: / 020 7253 3500.

2/ Find the SoS’s decision and his planning inspector’s recommendation (and their accompanying reports here. Both were published today for the first time. The SoS is not obliged to follow his inspector’s recommendation and his decision is final.

3/ In 2019 the UK made a legally binding commitment to become net-zero by 2050 in an effort to keep global warming below 2°C. The built environment and development sector is responsible for 40% of the UK’s emissions so has a crucial part to play in meeting our obligations.

4/ Case overview: M&S received planning permission in 2021 to demolish their flagship Marble Arch building – which was visited almost daily in its early decades by Simon Marks himself and is known to staff as The Arch – and to replace it with a 10-storey block of offices above a scaled-back shop and a carbon-intensive multi-level basement. Westminster council and the Greater London Authority waved the scheme through despite it being inconsistent with their own environmental policies. M&S’s own figures admitted the demolition and rebuild would have released 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere immediately. After an open letter from SAVE signed by leading architects and engineers, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, ordered a full public inquiry in June 2022. The public inquiry ran for two weeks in October and November 2022, with SAVE Britain’s Heritage the main opponent to M&S. It is the first time a planning inquiry has had sustainability and heritage as its joint focus. It won’t be the last.

5/ Support: SAVE Britain’s Heritage is proud that its agenda-setting campaign captured the public imagination, making headlines around the world, and influenced an entire industry. Since SAVE took up the case in 2021 the campaign has featured in hundreds of articles, everywhere from TIME magazine to the Architects’ Journal, the BBC to the Daily Mail, with The Times last week dubbing SAVE Britain’s Heritage “indefatigable conservation warriors”. Our campaign was backed by writer Bill Bryson, actor Kristin Scott Thomas, presenter Griff Rhys Jones and London Eye designer Julia Barfield, as well as architects, engineers, politicians, developers and historians. Our public inquiry crowdfunder smashed its £20,000 target and a petition attracted more than 6,000 signatures. It was clear there was widespread support for the case, both because of affection for the M&S building itself and because of the profound implications for the planet of replacing it.

6/ Further information can be found in our report, The Battle for M&S Oxford Street, and on our website.