Marks and Spencer has slammed the housing minister’s decision to hold a public inquiry over a redevelopment plan of its Marble Arch store.
The supermarket said it was “bewildered and disappointed” that Michael Gove had chosen to call in its plans to bulldoze the Art Deco flagship store on Oxford St.
A public inquiry will assess the merits and detriments of the scheme, as ministers have deemed the plan to be of more than local importance.
M&S had hoped to demolish the iconic building, constructed in 1929, in order to create a new 10-storey building, with office space and a gym.
Approval been clinched from the Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority however the government said it would postpone the progress of the plans until it could look into them.
Architects – including London Eye designer Julia Barfield and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud – had called for a public inquiry into the proposals, citing environmental concerns.
Sacha Berendji, group property, store development and technology director, said: “For a government purportedly focussed on the levelling up agenda, calling in this significant investment in one of our most iconic shopping locations will have a chilling affect for regeneration programmes across the country at a time when many town centres are being left behind and the property market is ever more precarious.”
Consisting of three separate buildings, the current site contained “poor-quality structures and asbestos challenges”, which made development “impossible” without rebuilding, according to the supermarket
“The existing store is a confusing warren of dense structures and misaligned floors, which is not the environment in which the modern customer wants to shop,” a blog post on the M&S website states.
A “backstage” area where M&S staff worked was also of “poor standard” and “impossible to modernise.”
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “This is a disappointing and misleading statement from M&S.
“Call-in decisions are made in line with established policy. It is right that a project of such significance should be considered by the independent planning inspectorate and ministers.”
Organised by SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Architects’ Journal, signatories of a letter last month said the proposals would “unnecessarily pump nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”
“In contrast to the slow release of carbon from existing buildings, these emissions would be released immediately because of the vast quantity of raw materials required such as steel and concrete,” the letter stated.
Developers were also accused of attempting to destroy “an elegant and important interwar building.”