By Gemma Goldfingle from Retail Gazette
- Communities Secretary Michael Gove has hit pause on M&S’ plans to demolish its Marble Arch flagship for ministers to scrutinise plans
- The plan, which was due to be signed off by Westminister council, has attracted controversy for the environmental impact of the demolition
M&S’ controversial plan to demolish its Marble Arch flagship have been “paused” by communities secretary Michael Gove so ministers can scrutinise the plans.
Gove has stepped in after London mayor Sadiq Khan opted not to block the planning decision to replace the 100-year-old landmark Oxford Street store with a modern 10-storey building, which includes office space and a gym above a smaller store, despite environmental concerns.
The communities secretary has now instructed Westminister council, which has final sign off on the plans, to “pause” the application, using an Article 31 holding direction that allows the Government to inspect the plans, according to the Evening Standard.
Concerns have been raised about the carbon footprint of the demolition project.
The Greater London Authority’s carbon advisor, architect Simon Sturgis, penned a report that said the demolition was at odds with City Hall’s planning policy of retaining and retro-fitting old buildings and argued that a comprehensive refurbishment was a better option for the flagship store.
But last week Khan decided the redevelopment could go ahead despite the concerns as he found that the carbon footprint of the demolition had been considered from the offset.
Although Khan referred the application back to Westminister council for sign off, Gove can now prevent the scheme from going ahead.
A Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson told the Evening Standard that M&S’s application will be “assessed against published policy on calling-in applications and a decision will be issued in due course”.
An M&S spokesman said: “The plans we have submitted to build a new, vibrant M&S store fit for modern retail and sustainable office space has been approved at every stage and strongly supported by the local community as a key part of the regeneration of an iconic part of London.
“As well as attracting new investment and footfall, a detailed assessment on the carbon impact across the whole lifecycle of the building was undertaken by independent experts who concluded that the new build offered significant sustainability advantages over a refurbishment.”