Dezeen Magazine

M&S Oxford Street store

Marks & Spencer's Oxford Street flagship saved from demolition in "huge victory for heritage"

British Secretary of State Michael Gove has rejected Marks & Spencer's plans to demolish its Art Deco flagship store on Oxford Street in London and replace it with a building designed by Pilbrow & Partners.

A 127-page report was released today by the Department of Housing & Communities to announce Gove's decision. His rejection of the plans largely concluded that demolishing the building would generate almost 40,000 tonnes of embodied carbon.

In his overturning of the plans, Gove considered the impact of the building on the Grade-II listed facade of Selfridges to be a "very great weight" and that the appearance and volume of the proposed building would distract from the listed structure.

"The height and appearance of the cornice of the proposed development would be prominent and distracting from the Selfridge’s facade, especially when compared with the deferential appearance of Orchard House."

Photo of the proposed Marks & Spencer store
M&S planned on demolishing the existing store (top) with a design by Pilbrow & Partners

Named Orchard House, the 1930s building is located on a prominent spot on the corner of Oxford Street opposite the iconic department store Selfridges.

Plans to demolish and rebuild Orchard House were announced by M&S (Marks & Spencer) in late 2021, which caused controversy and led to a petition being launched by the Twentieth Century Society to abandon the demolition.

The plans would see the Art Deco building and the two additional structures M&S occupies, replaced by a 10-storey store and office building designed by Pilbrow & Partners. M&S would occupy the first two levels and the remainder dedicated to rentable office spaces.

The decision was welcomed by SAVE Britain's Heritage, which had campaigned to halt the demolition.

"This is a hugely important decision that rightly challenges the way we continually and needlessly knock down and rebuild important buildings across our towns and cities," said SAVE Britain's Heritage director Henrietta Billings.

"Repurposing and converting buildings we cherish and saving thousands of tonnes of C02 in the process is a no brainer. This is a massive positive step and we salute the Secretary of State."

This was echoed by the Twentieth Century Society.

"A huge victory for heritage and environmental campaigners, and a landmark decision for the future of UK construction and the built environment," it tweeted.

The building has been the focus of a long-running battle between the shopping chain and conservation campaigns. In 2022, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reviewed his decision to allow the demolition. This was followed by Gove halting the plans and issuing a "direction preventing Westminster Council from issuing a final decision" on the demolition.