PRESS RELEASE: Highly controversial M&S demolition plans to be re-determined by Secretary of State

The 1929 Orchard House, saved from demolition by Michael Gove's decision [Credit: © Matthew Andrews]
The 1929 Orchard House, saved from demolition by Michael Gove's decision [Credit: © Matthew Andrews]

1st March 2024

The High court has allowed the legal challenge to the M&S Oxford Street decision on procedural grounds and has sent the demolition plans for a new building back to Michael Gove for a fresh decision.

Judge Mrs Justice Lieven has issued her decision today in the High Court, allowing a challenge of the Secretary of State’s decision on procedural grounds. This means the M&S plans will be sent back to Secretary of State for re-examination.

M&S challenged the Secretary of State Michael Gove's decision on procedural grounds in relation to how he interpreted planning policy in reaching his decision, and how he explained his disagreement with his appointed Inspector, following the public inquiry. The legal challenge was heard in the High Court on 13th and 14th February 2024.

Key points of the ruling:

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage, said: "Today's ruling represents another twist and turn in the long running saga of M&S's highly controversial plans to bulldoze and rebuild a structurally sound historic landmark building on Oxford Street. Six years on, M&S still don't have a planning consent. By contrast, if from the beginning they had pursued a less environmentally damaging retrofit scheme they could have obtained planning consent quicker, and could have completed the works and be receiving valuable rental income by now.

"In his public inquiry decision, Gove sent a clear message that he wanted to use the NPPF to highlight the need for repurposing and re-using buildings. The Judge's decision today shows that the policy wording isn't tight enough. The best way to remedy that is for the Secretary of State to strengthen the NPPF in terms of sustainability. We urge him to do this without delay. We are pleased that the Judge dismissed M&S's challenge against Mr Gove’s reasoning on heritage impacts, especially given that this was the primary basis upon which Mr Gove refused permission.

"This case has focused widespread public attention on the wasteful knock it down and build again process that has dominated our construction sector for the last 100 years. Now in 2024 people are demanding action. We need a fresh positive approach to re-using historic buildings and saving precious resources. We also urgently need robust national planning policy on retro fit that aligns with the UK government's law on net zero targets."

Notes to editors:

1. For more information contact Ben Dewfield-Oakley at / 020 7253 3500

2. More background on our website and in our report

3. 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. Our success stories range from Smithfield Market in London and Wentworth Woodhouse stately home in Yorkshire, to a Lancashire bowls club and the Liverpool terraces where Ringo Starr grew up

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