// An inquiry into Marks & Spencer’s Oxford Street store development plans will begin in October
// M&S has also shared more details about the development’s public realm benefits, including the creation of a new pocket park
M&S has confirmed that an inquiry is set to begin on October 25 over the department store‘s controversial plan to raze and rebuild its Oxford Street store.
The main issues to be considered within the inquiry includes the development’s contribution to local heritage and improvements to the public realm, sustainability, and its potential to support regeneration of Oxford Street.
The update arrives as M&S has shared more details about the development’s public realm benefits, including the creation of a new pocket park, “St Michael’s Place”, which will be feature a café and retail space.
The retailer has also confirmed that the scheme will “promote circular economy principles”, with 95% of the existing building materials to be recovered, recycled or reused.
Marks & Spencer explained that with” much focus having been placed on Orchard House”, it has also now shared new information that the Orchard House building represents only 30% of the total space of the M&S Marble Arch site.
M&S Group Operations Director Sacha Berendji said: “Our proposed development at our Marble Arch site is the culmination of two years’ work with Westminster City Council, the GLA and the local business and resident community, which have supported the development at every stage.”
Berendji said that at this week’s case management conference, Westminster City Council reiterated their continued support for the scheme, which is the only retail-led regeneration in the whole of Oxford Street, where one in five shops sit vacant and footfall remains 30% down on pre-pandemic levels.
He added: “The existing buildings, of which Orchard House makes up less than a third of the site, have been excluded from surrounding Conservation Areas and Historic England concluded none were of listable status, testament to their low design and heritage value and, while safe, cannot be modernised through refitting as it’s made up of three separate buildings containing asbestos.”
New West End Company Chief Operating Officer Dee Corsi commented: “Diversifying the mix of uses on Oxford Street is integral to the West End’s recovery and future growth. M&S’s ambitious development proposal will not only enhance the retail, leisure and working experience, but also the public realm and built environment.”
“If the West End is to retain its position as a world-class destination at a time of changing consumer expectations and increasing competition we must actively encourage innovative, sustainable and regenerative developments.”
The update comes as several high profile individuals, including author Bill Bryson and Stirling prize winning architect Steve Tompkins have joined those backing Save Britain’s Heritage’s campaign to fight M&S’ plans to demolish its Oxford Street flagship
Bryson, author of Notes from a Small Island, has donated £500 to a fund created by the Save Britain’s Heritage campaign group, according to The Architect’s Journal.
Bryson told the publication: “I believe it would be a great shame to tear down the M&S building. I have no special knowledge or insights about the matter. I just wish to help stop a bit of foolishness.”