PRESS RELEASE: SAVE welcomes public inquiry for M&S landmark Oxford Street building

21st June 2022

SAVE Britain’s Heritage welcomes communities secretary Michael Gove's decision to call in plans to bulldoze and rebuild landmark Marks and Spencer store on Oxford Street for examination at a public inquiry. 

The announcement issued yesterday by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) means that the highly contested plans, previously approved by Westminster City Council in November last year, will now be re-examined by an independent planning inspector at a public inquiry later this year.

M&S’s controversial proposals to bulldoze its flagship 1929 art deco store on Oxford Street and replace it with a much larger 10-storey retail and office block have been the focus on a campaign led by SAVE and the Architects’ Journal highlighting the huge environmental and net-zero costs of the proposals. Last month we published an open letter calling on the government to call in the scheme, signed by leading architects, engineers, urbanists and historians.

Simon Sturgis, sustainability expert and managing partner of Targeting Zero, says: “I welcome a public inquiry as it will give the opportunity to not only examine in detail the most carbon efficient options for the M&S site, but also to make plain the policies of Westminster, the GLA and the Government with respect to development and what needs to be done to meet the Government's net zero carbon targets.”

Will Hurst, managing editor of the Architects’ Journal, says: “To combat global warming, we urgently need to halt unnecessary demolition and revitalise buildings instead, especially historic and well-liked structures like M&S Oxford Street. A public inquiry is exactly what's needed. It will be able weigh up the carbon calculations put forward by both sides and can also examine other important matters such as the project's impact on this vital part of the West End and its mix of uses.”

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This is great news. SAVE strongly believes there’s no need to demolish this historic M&S building. Through our campaign we’ve shown that with a comprehensive retrofit, this building can continue to serve as a landmark on Oxford Street for the next 100 years.”

The Secretary of State’s notification letter announcing his decision states his intention to examine the following issues at a public inquiry:

In the lead up to the call in decision, we commissioned a report by Simon Sturgis which found the proposals were not compliant with the Government’s legally binding Net Zero commitments or the Greater London Authority’s policy to prioritise retrofit.

Sturgis concluded that M&S has not fully considered a comprehensive retrofit approach which would be a significantly lower-carbon option than demolition. See the report and associated press release from May 2022 here.

Working with the Twentieth Century Society, we also launched a petition calling on M&S bosses to rethink their plans. Sign the petition here.

Notes to editors: 

1. For more information and images contact Benedict Oakley: / 020 7253 3500.

2. See here for our open letter to the Communities Secretary in May 2022, signed by figures in the worlds of heritage, built environment and the arts, urging him to call in M&S’s proposals to demolish its historic Marble Arch store.

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

4. SAVE’s recent report on the future of department stores, Departing Stores: Emporia at Risk, was published in April 2022. Click here to see the report in full.

5. 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.