senior Marks & Spencer boss has warned that the retailer may quit its flagship Marble Arch site altogether if a controversial planning application for a new store is blocked.
M&S Group store development director Sacha Berendji said the high-profile campaign to stop it demolishing the shop and building a new one puts its future presence at the western end of Oxford Street “unnecessarily in jeopardy”.
If it did pull out it would leave just one M&S store on the 1.2 mile stretch of Europe’s busiest shopping street.
M&S has already won planning consent from Westminster council for its plan to bulldoze its 92-year-old Art Deco flagship next to Selfridges, known as Orchard House, as well as two other buildings. It would replace them with a 10-storey steel and glass retail and office complex in what critics have condemned as “cultural vandalism”.
However, last month Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove used his legal powers to put a stop on the plans to give the Government a chance to review their environmental impact. The move follows a report by City Hall adviser Simon Sturgis, of Save Britain’s Heritage, who raised concerns about how demolition would impact on “net zero” targets. The plans have become a test case in the debate about whether ageing commercial buildings should be refurbished rather than demolished and replaced because of the carbon emissions “embedded” in them when they were constructed.
But in a blog on the M&S website Mr Berendji insisted that levelling the site and constructing a new building was the greener option.
He wrote: “We strongly believe the replacement of the three existing buildings is the right response to the climate emergency, providing a better overall carbon footprint within 17 years and sustainability benefits for the next hundred years beyond.
“M&S has been trading in West Oxford Street for over 90 years and, with the support of our colleagues, the local community and Westminster council, we are confident that what we are proposing means M&S will continue to trade at Marble Arch for the next 90 years and beyond.
“Without rebuilding the site, the sustainability of our presence in West Oxford Street in its broadest sense is unnecessarily in jeopardy.”
He also warned that without innovation London’s most famous shopping street would go into decline and could end up as “a mish mash of poor, idle shopping space longing to be restored to its former glory”.