M&S wins High Court appeal to tear down Marble Arch store

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Marks & Spencer has won a legal battle against the government over plans to demolish one of its flagship central London stores.

The company took legal action against the government in the High Court over its “unusual” decision to refuse permission for its plans to flatten and rebuild its Marble Arch store in Oxford Street.

The government said Michael Gove was entitled to make the decision he did, but Mrs Justice Nathalie Lieven said the levelling up secretary had “rewritten” planning policy.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities acknowledged the judgement and said it was “considering our next steps”.

M&S wants to flatten Orchard House and replace it, claiming the redevelopment was “of fundamental importance” to the future of London’s West End.

Westminster City Council originally approved M&S’ plans to tear down the current art deco building and replace it with a modernised shop featuring a new café, offices and a gym in 2021.

But the decision was met with resistance from campaigners which prompted Mr Gove to launch an inquiry and eventually block the proposals.

Mr Gove had said the building should be refurbished rather than demolished and that demolition would negatively impact nearby heritage assets, including the Grade II* listed Selfridges store directly opposite.

Barristers for M&S told a hearing earlier in February that Mr Gove had “misunderstood and misapplied” national planning policy when making his decision.

Mrs Justice Lieven agreed and in her ruling on Friday said: “In my view, it is plain that the secretary of state misinterpreted the national planning policy framework, and therefore erred in law.

“The secretary of state relied on a meaning of the national planning policy framework which is simply not open to him.”

Following the decision, Sacha Berendji, M&S operations director, said the judgement “couldn’t be clearer” that Mr Gove’s decision was “unlawful”.

He added: “The result has been a long, unnecessary and costly delay to the only retail-led regeneration on Oxford Street which would deliver one of London’s greenest buildings, create thousands of new jobs and rejuvenate the capital’s premier shopping district.”

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