M&S could exit Oxford Street if Marble Arch demolition plan is blocked
Marks & Spencer has come out fighting with the retail giant threatening to quit Oxford Street if it fails to gain approval to knock down and rebuild its London Marble Arch store.
It claims Oxford Street’s international standing as a famous shopping destination would be be “terminally harmed” with the loss of M&S.
Citing the closure of household names and the slew of US-themed candy stores accused of tax dodging, the lawyer representing M&S also said Oxford Street is “failing” within the retail sector.
As the public enquiry opened on the future of the three-storey Marble Arch building, barrister Russell Harris KC said Oxford Street is facing the “worst retail environment in 50 years”, and that there could be “powerful consequences” of the retailer not being able to meet the needs of the area.
It was a “commercial fact” that M&S may leave the location, “not at all a threat,” he said.
M&S has claimed a refurbishment of the building for office purposes “would simply not be deliverable” or economical, as the current 1920s store is blighted by asbestos. A refurbishment rather than a demolition would generate minimal income that “would not come anywhere close to paying for itself,” Harris added.
Ahead of the enquiry, Oxford Street neighbour Selfridges has backed M&S’s plans for the site, although campaigners have said the proposals “unacceptably harm” the significance of the iconic Grade II-listed department store.
Campaigners cited environmental concerns with the new plans and have also accused M&S of attempting to destroy “an elegant and important interwar building.”
M&S should “seriously and creatively” consider a refurbishment of the site, arguing a “comprehensive retro-fit” would avoid the carbon emissions of a demolition and rebuild, Save Britain’s Heritage lawyer Matthew Fraser said.
Organised by Save Britain’s Heritage and the Architects’ Journal, signatories of a letter in May said the proposals would “unnecessarily pump nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”
The public inquiry, set to run for two weeks, will also hear from members of the public.
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