E Point Perfect

Historic England reviews protection of former department stores

Department stores Historic England
Department stores could be protected under a review by Historic England
// Campaign builds to protect former department stores following demolition threats
// Historic England reviewing status of iconic high street stores, amid support to save buildings

Department stores could be granted protected status after Historic England announced it is reviewing the high street buildings.

The announcement comes at a time when many former stores are vacant, facing uncertain futures and possible demolition.

“We are researching the history of department stores to provide a national overview of the key architectural and historic phases of their development,” said a Historic England spokesperson.

“This is in response to the changes in retailing which have seen stores close and an increase in requests for them to be considered for listing. The work is at an early stage so we don’t yet know if it will lead to any proposals to list further examples.”

Other campaigning organisations such as Twentieth Century Society (C20) and SAVE Britain’s Heritage have lobbied to save buildings that were “once the heart of our high streets” said SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

“These majestic and prestigious retail palaces that were built to impress and have stood the test of time through the quality of the architecture and the great fondness that people hold for them,” said the organisation’s director, Henrietta Billings.

“We hope this review will lead to more and urgent listings – meaning protection and national recognition – across the country.”

READ MORE: M&S Marble Arch: October date set for inquiry as retailer unveils plans

In the past seven years, more than 50% of department stores across the country have closed, according to C20, leaving vacant nearly two million square metres of retail space.

Controversy over demolition plans for the famous M&S branch on Oxford Street is the latest example of a dispute over an iconic structure’s future and C20 has lobbied for a review of department stores around the country, with objections recently raised over the proposed demolition of a former Debenhams in Harrogate.

Those identified for architectural and historic interest by the organisation include former Debenhams stores in Somerset and Surrey, and Aberdeen’s Norco House, acquired by John Lewis in the 1980s.

Earlier this month a former John Lewis and Cole Brothers building in Sheffield was given a Grade-II listing by Historic England, after a 20-year battle.

“If not as temples of consumerism, how else can these leviathans serve their communities?” the organisation said of its campaign.

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