PRESS RELEASE: Leading figures urge Communities Secretary to hold inquiry into M&S demolition plans

PRESS RELEASE: Leading figures urge Communities Secretary to hold inquiry into M&S demolition plans
PRESS RELEASE: Leading figures urge Communities Secretary to hold inquiry into M&S demolition plans

18th May 2022

SAVE publishes open letter to Michael Gove signed by architects, engineers, urbanists and historians.

Leading figures in the worlds of heritage, built environment and the arts have signed an open letter to the Communities Secretary urging him to “call in” M&S’s proposals to demolish its historic Marble Arch store.

The letter, signed by Kevin McCloud, London Eye designer Julia Barfield and Griff Rhys Jones among others, was initiated by SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Architects’ Journal after Michael Gove suspended Westminster Council’s planning approval last month pending a review by his department. M&S wants to bulldoze its flagship 1929 art deco store on Oxford Street and replace it with a much larger 10-storey retail and office block.

The letter to Michael Gove says: "We now urge you to hold a public inquiry into these proposals which would unnecessarily pump nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. In contrast to the slow release of carbon from existing buildings, these emissions would be released immediately because of the vast quantity of raw materials required such as steel and concrete."

The letter makes the case that with design ingenuity the building's life could be extended by another 100 years or more.

It says: "We believe the overall strategy for this site is wrong, with a development which is environmentally wasteful, destroys an elegant and important interwar building and, many feel, negatively affects Oxford Street and its wider West End neighbourhood. We should be adapting the building, not destroying it."

The letter cites the SAVE report by sustainability expert Simon Sturgis which found the proposals were not compliant with the Government’s legally binding Net Zero commitments or the GLA’s policy to prioritise retrofit.

Sturgis argues that M&S has not fully considered a comprehensive retrofit approach which would be a significantly lower-carbon option than demolition.

You can read the open letter in full HERE.

The signatories are:

Notes to editors: 

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

2. Click here to access the report by Simon Sturgis and here for our accompanying press statement from January 2022.

3. SAVE’s recent report on the future of department stores, Departing Stores: Emporia at Risk, was publishing on April 4. Click here to see the report in full.

4. SAVE Britain's Heritage is a strong, 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. 

Documents (click to read/download)