Yesterday in London, M&S filed an appeal to the High Court that would overturn U.K. Secretary of State Michael Gove’s controversial decision to deny the historic London department store the right to demolish their flagship building from 1929 on Oxford Street and replace it with a new 10-story structure by Pillbrow and Partners, a U.K. firm.
“Today we have launched a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reject our Marble Arch store proposal,” said Sacha Berendji, Operations Director at M&S in a written statement. “We have done this because we believe the Secretary of State wrongly interpreted and applied planning policy, to justify his rejection of our scheme on grounds of heritage and environmental concerns. It is hugely disappointing that after two years of support and approvals at every stage, we have been forced to take legal action to overcome a misguided agenda against our scheme, and we will be challenging this to the fullest extent possible.”
The redevelopment project designed by Pillbrow and Partners would replace the masonry 1929 building with a 10-story structure. Gove rejected the idea in July on the grounds of heritage, preservation, and carbon issues. Many support the ruling, arguing that the demolition could set a negative precedent developers can use to justify knocking down other historic buildings for new structures.
The plan by M&S/Pillbrow and Partners was approved by both the Westminster City Council and London mayor Sadiq Khan. But Gove’s rejection blocked the project from moving ahead. In response to Gove’s decision, Stuart Machin, M&S chief executive, said the ruling is “unfathomable.” Furthermore, Machin said “The suggestion the decision is on the grounds of sustainability is nonsensical.”
Fred Pillbrow, the founder of Pillbrow and Partners, told Architect’s Journal: “How can a planning system that charges no less than three separate authorities – Westminster City Council, the Mayor of London and now the planning inspector – to determine one application, simply overrule their unanimous conclusions? Gove heard none of the evidence first-hand. I hope his decision will be vigorously challenged by M&S.”
Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage Henrietta Billings supported Gove’s decision, saying “This public inquiry raised highly significant national issues about the way we build, the wasteful demolition of perfectly good buildings and the future of our high streets. Our case generated widespread public support and media attention. Michael Gove made the right decision in dismissing the M&S demolition proposals and we hope that the Secretary of State and his department resolutely defend this case. We are considering our next steps and have every intention of maintaining our position.”