A City Hall review last year concluded that the landmark Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street could be demolished and replaced by a new 10-storey centre.
However, these plans have now been scuppered, after a hearing called last year by Michael Gove, which blocked the move temporarily. Now, that very inquiry has led to the rejection of the plans, which found that the potential harm to the landmarks nearby, including Selfridges and nearby conservation areas, outweighed the benefits of the project.
Michael Gove, who is the Communities Secretary, initially told Westminster council to “pause” the application which would see the landmark building demolished. Local authorities now cannot go ahead with the plans until it has received Government scrutiny.
The move had previously faced criticism from campaigners, who cited environmental concerns about the project going ahead, saying the demolition would go against City Hall policy. In the review today (July 20), the scheme’s carbon footprint was also highlighted as a negative aspect of the move, and one that factored towards its rejection.
M&S have already spoken out against the decision, and claimed it could close down if it is not allowed to rebuild on the site.
Matthew Fraser spoke on behalf of Save Britain’s Heritage, and said that the project would require around 40,000 tonnes CO2, which is “the equivalent of driving a typical car 99 million miles, further than the distance to the sun”.
M&S had planned to demolish the Edwardian building, nearly 100-years-old, with a new space that will house offices, a gym, a smaller shop and a pedestrian arcade.
Henrietta Billings, director of Save Britain’s Heritage, spoke after the move was initially blocked last year, saying: “These proposals do not comply with national net zero legislation to reduce carbon emissions or the mayor’s own policy to prioritise retrofit.
“If the London mayor is serious about tackling climate change this cycle of trashing and rebuilding from scratch must stop. This decision flies in the face of national and London wide policy, and goes against the advice of the Mayor’s own sustainability advisor.
“The M&S building is a handsome landmark that has characterised Oxford Street for almost 100 years, helping shape one of London’s most famous and historic streets.”
M&S have now been advised by the council to revise their plans and present a viable scheme that meets climate standards.