Marks & Spencer has accused housing minister Michael Gove of “political grandstanding” after he halted the planned redevelopment of its flagship Marble Arch store on London’s Oxford Street.
The retailer’s group property, store development and technology director Sacha Berendji said he was “bewildered and disappointed” at Gove’s “baseless decision” to order a public inquiry into the redevelopment plans.
He said Gove 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 is three separate buildings containing asbestos”.
Berendji accused Gove of “political grandstanding” and said he “appears to prefer a proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods to a gold-standard retail-led regeneration of the nation’s favourite high street”.
He continued: “For a government purportedly focussed on the levelling up agenda, calling in this significant investment in one of our most iconic shopping locations will have a chilling effect for regeneration programmes across the country at a time when many town centres are being left behind and the property market is ever more precarious.”
A spokesperson from Gove’s department accused Marks & Spencer of “a disappointing and misleading” statement. They insisted it was “right that a project of such significance should be considered by the independent Planning Inspectorate and ministers”, according to a statement seen by The Guardian.
“Call-in decisions are made in line with established policy,” they said.
Marks & Spencer plans to knock down its 92-year old Art Deco building and replace it with a ten-storey building comprising a store, offices, and a gym.
But the plans, which have been granted approval by Westminster City Council, have faced opposition from environmental groups who say it should be refurbished rather than bulldozed and rebuilt to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions.