M&S ‘could quit Marble Arch flagship if bid to rebuild site blocked’


The senior Marks & Spencer boss has warned the retailer could exit its flagship Marble Arch site altogether if a controversial planning request for a new store is blocked.

M&S Group store development director Sacha Berendji said the high-profile campaign to stop him tearing down the store and building a new one puts his future presence at the west end of Oxford Street “unnecessarily in danger”.

If he pulled out, there would be just one M&S store left on the 1.2-mile stretch of Europe’s busiest shopping street.

M&S has already won planning permission from Westminster Council for plans to bulldoze its 92-year-old Art Deco lighthouse next to Selfridges, known as Orchard House, along with two other buildings. He would replace them with a 10-story steel and glass retail and office complex in what critics condemned as “cultural vandalism”.

However, last month Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove used his legal powers to halt the plans to give the government a chance to scrutinize their impact on the environment. The move follows a report by councilor for the town hall, Simon Sturgis, of Save Britain’s Heritage, who expressed concern about the impact of the demolition on ‘net zero’ targets. The plans have become a test case in the debate over whether aging commercial buildings should be refurbished rather than demolished and replaced due to carbon emissions “embedded” during their construction.

But in a blog post on the M&S website, Mr Berendji insisted that leveling the site and constructing a new building was the greener option.

He wrote: “We strongly believe that replacing the three existing buildings is the right answer to the climate emergency, delivering a better overall carbon footprint within 17 years and sustainability benefits for the next hundred years.

“M&S have 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 offering means that M&S ​​will continue to trade in Marble Arch. for the next 90 years. years and beyond.

“Without rebuilding the site, the sustainability of our presence in West Oxford Street in its broadest sense is unnecessarily threatened.”

He also warned that without innovation, London’s most famous shopping street would decline and could end up as “a hodgepodge of poor, idle commercial spaces yearning to return to their former glory”.

Amanda J. Marsh