Earlier this year, plans were approved to demolish the Marks & Spencer building on Oxford Street and replace it with brand new space that also holds office space, a gym and an arcade.
The motion has received scrutiny, not only because the Edwardian building M&S inhabits is nearly 100 years old, but because serious concerns have been raised over the environmental impact of knocking the building down and replacing it; which would raise CO2 levels in a central area of London that must cut down on emissions.
A crowdfunder has been set up to try and stop the demolition from happening, and has so far reached over £11,000 of its initial £20,000 goal. Opposition to the demolition has come from architects, environmentalist, and even writer Bill Bryson have donated and voiced their dismay about the plans to rip down the 92-year-old Art Deco building.
Speaking to the Architects’ Journal, he said: “I believe it would be a great shame to tear down the M&S building. I have no special knowledge or insights about the matter. I just wish to help stop a bit of foolishness.”
The writer donated £500 to the campaign, which suggests that the building should undergo a “deep retrofit” to improve sustainability and provide a stronger alternative to the plans of demolishing the landmark.
Alongside Bryson on the campaign are a group of architects including Stirling prize winner Steve Tomkins and Mark Hines, with the central concern being that destroying the space would release 40,000 tonnes of carbon.
Speaking in a letter opposing the plans, Steve Tomkins said: “Number 458 Oxford Street is a handsome piece of urban architecture, made with high-quality durable materials. It is a successful component of the wider streetscape and a familiar London landmark. For these reasons, the building appears to be an entirely suitable candidate for deep retrofitting.”
A public enquiry to the demolition, which was initially called into question by Communities Secretary Michael Gove, is now starting on October 25. This crowdfunder will be used to gather resources for the fight, including paying for legal fees and expert witnesses.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “In the face of a climate emergency we have to rethink our disposable attitude to buildings. We are confident we have a strong case and we are looking forward to making our arguments as powerfully as possible at the public inquiry. This is where the fate of this West End landmark will be decided – and it could change the course of construction in the UK.”
You can read more about the crowdfunder and donate here.