PRESS RELEASE: SAVE announces expert team for M&S public inquiry

12th October 2022

Campaigning charity gears up for ‘David and Goliath battle’ against retail giant

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is today announcing the expert team that will help fight a public inquiry into plans to demolish M&S’s flagship store on Oxford Street.

The David and Goliath battle starts on 25th October and is SAVE’s biggest case since it helped save Smithfield Market in 2014. This high profile public inquiry brings together for the first time heritage and sustainability campaigners alike, focused on one of Britain’s best known streets, and a world famous retail brand.

The scheme has become a test case for the debate over a shift to retrofitting and refurbishing buildings rather than demolition and rebuilding, as part of efforts to cut the carbon footprint of development amid the climate crisis.

Our crowdfunder of £20,000 towards our legal costs, has received tremendous support from over 300 people – including from the writer Bill Bryson – but we still urgently need financial support. 



SAVE has appointed carbon specialists Simon Sturgis and Julie Godefroy, plus the heritage and planning expert Alec Forshaw as witnesses who will give evidence at the inquiry. SAVE will be represented by barrister Matthew Fraser of Landmark Chambers, who specialises in planning and environmental law.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This battle has captured the attention of a wide range of people and businesses, eager to see a seismic change in the way we develop our towns and cities in light of the climate crisis.

"We must stop demolishing and re-building perfectly re-useable buildings, and stop unnecessarily releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Instead of trashing this building and starting from scratch, we strongly believe M & S, as a global retail leader, can use this building as an exemplar low carbon re-use scheme, and set a flexible template for other department stores.

Simon Sturgis is an architect and one of the UK’s leading experts on embodied carbon. He is managing partner of Targeting Zero, a member of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) climate change expert panel and an advisor to the EU Commission. He will be giving evidence on the embodied carbon implications of M&S’s proposal versus a deep retrofit. SAVE commissioned Simon to write a technical report in January 2022 arguing for a deep retrofit of the M&S building over demolition and re-build.

Julie Godefroy is a chartered engineer and sustainability consultant.  She will give evidence on the whole life carbon assessment and comparison of the new build and refurbishment scenarios. 

Alec Forshaw has successfully represented SAVE at numerous inquiries including Smithfield Market, and Anglia Square in Norwich. He is a writer, planner and urban designer who was head of conservation at Islington council for 32 years.

The public inquiry, which is due to run for two weeks at Westminster City Hall, opens on 25th October.
The Secretary of State announced a public inquiry in June after a campaign by SAVE which attracted support from leading architects, engineers, developers and public figures including Julia Barfield, designer of the London Eye, Dr Lesley Lokko, Kevin McCloud and Griff Rhys Jones, as well as Duncan Baker, the MP for North Norfolk who brought the Carbon Emissions (Buildings) Bill to Parliament.
Our experts will demonstrate that the M&S building is an eminently suitable candidate for a deep retrofit which would bring it up to the highest contemporary standards of sustainability, robustly challenging M&S’s case for demolition and new-build. They will also argue the elegant 1920s building deserves to be saved because of the valuable heritage contribution it makes to the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street and the wider West End.
Marks and Spencer’s team at the inquiry will be led by Russell Harris QC, with witnesses Fred Pilbrow, founding partner at architect Pilbrow & Partners, Dr Chris Miele, senior partner specialising in historic environment and townscape at Montagu Evans, Mel Allwood, director of sustainable buildings at Arup, and Chris Goddard, a director and retail planning specialist at DP9.


Notes to editors:

1/ For more information contact Elizabeth Hopkirk: / 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.