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Retail giant Marks & Spencer (M&S) has lambasted Michael Gove over his “baseless” decision to “block” the redevelopment of the chain’s Oxford Street store.
The group’s proposal to flatten its flagship 1929 Art Deco store on Oxford Street and replace it with a much larger 10-storey retail and office block designed by Pilbrow + Partners, was supported last November by Westminster City Council, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and local business and residents.
However, Michael Gove has now ordered a public inquiry into the move after campaigner warned that knocking down and rebuilding the site would have an adverse environmental impact.
M&S has said it was “bewildered and disappointed” with the Communities Secretary’s actions and claimed he prefers the “proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods” than its plans to invest in the store.
Sacha Berendji, group property, store development and technology director at M&S, said: “After two years of working with Westminster City Council, the GLA and the local business and resident community which has supported the development at every stage, we are bewildered and disappointed at Michael Gove’s baseless decision to call in the proposed redevelopment of our Marble Arch site.
“The Secretary of State has blocked the only retail-led regeneration in the whole of Oxford Street in a building which was refused listed status due to its low design quality and, while safe, cannot be modernised through refitting as it’s three separate buildings containing asbestos.
“Twenty percent of units on Oxford Street lay vacant and the Secretary of State appears to prefer a proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods to a gold-standard retail-led regeneration of the nation’s favourite high street.”
After Westminster City Council, the GLA and local business and residents have supported our development at every stage, we are bewildered and disappointed at Michael Gove's baseless decision to call in the proposed re-development of our Marble Arch site. Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/fNU1coV9Vu
— M&S News (@MandSnews) June 21, 2022
The comments come at a time when US sweet shops lacing the iconic London street have come under fire for selling counterfeit products.
Earlier this month, Westminster City Council seized a haul of counterfeit products totalling £100,000 from three unnamed stores on London’s Oxford Street.
A spokesman for the New West End Company added that “high levels of investment and development” are needed in order for Oxford Street to prosper.
Dee Corsi, chief operating officer at New West End Company, said: “Securing a bright and prosperous future for Oxford Street requires high levels of investment and development.
“It is vital that the council and businesses redouble efforts to work together to deliver the long-awaited public realm investment, and ensure progressive planning and licencing policies are in place to enable businesses to respond to changing customer trends, by delivering innovative and future proof buildings that are fit for purpose for a revived, dynamic high street.”
A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 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.”