SAVE Britain’s Heritage response to M&S’s press release dated 19th August

The M&S building on Oxford Street [Credit: SAVE Britain's Heritage]

19th August 2022

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has issued the following response to M&S’s press release about Orchard House dated 19/8/22:

M&S’s statement is disingenuous to say the least.

For a start it claims its proposal is the “only retail-led regeneration in the whole of Oxford Street” – yet its application is not retail-led at all but an attempt to replace six storeys of retail with a 10-storey office block over a vastly reduced shop unit. Their claim will also come as a surprise to other retailers investing in the street, such as Ikea which is set to open in the former Top Shop building at Oxford Circus.

M&S claims it would be impossible to retrofit the premises because it consists of three shops containing asbestos. Asbestos will have to be removed whether the building is retained or demolished, and specialist contractors can easily do this. The floors of the three adjoining buildings are almost completely level, posing no problem to a decent architect, as demonstrated by projects up and down the country such as the former Debenhams in Bournemouth – now reopened as Bobby’s – which is an amalgam of at least four buildings from different periods.

M&S is dismissive of its flagship building. Yet the Twentieth Century Society calls it a heritage asset, thousands have signed a petition calling for it to be saved – and Mr Marks himself considered the store so important he would visit on an almost daily basis to assess its operation and sales.

M&S says it has amended its planning application to improve the public realm. This corner of Oxford Street already enjoys wide pavements and sweeping views of Selfridges’ grade II* listed façade. Do M&S think a sunless “pocket park” and an alleyway will be enough to convince Londoners to let them tear down this elegant and much-loved 1920s landmark which has graced this corner for generations?

M&S says its proposed new building will use less than a quarter of the energy of the existing structure. But it is the 40,000 tonnes of CO2 that would be released for the demolition and construction of a brand-new building that is of far greater concern to climate scientists.

M&S also says the new building would yield a better overall carbon footprint than the existing buildings “within just 17 years”. As others have argued in their letters to the Planning Inspector, we’re facing a climate emergency right now: we don’t have 17 years to waste.

ENDS


Notes to editors:

1/ For more information contact Elizabeth Hopkirk: elizabeth.hopkirk@savebritainsheritage.org or the office on 020 7253 3500.

2/ Support our fundraising appeal here.

3/ Watch our campaign video here

4/ Find links to our previous press releases on the M&S building here

5/ SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.