M&S flagship store demolition alternative proposal

Create Streets is today publishing its alternative proposal to the Marks & Spencer’s proposed total demolition of their of their historic store in Oxford Street. Robert Kwolek has written about it in The Sunday Times here.

Marks and Spencer’s proposal to demolish their 1930 Oxford Street flagship store (Orchard House) has proved very controversial with a government call in, an appeal to the High Court and high-profile interventions from (among others) Kevin McCloud, Griff Rhys Jones, Sir Simon Jenkins and Kristin Scott Thomas as well as a host of experts from the worlds of architecture, heritage and planning. It has served as a prominent cause célèbre for important interrelated debates about net zero development, the future of department stores, twentieth century heritage and high streets.

The future for Orchard House is once more in doubt following the March 2024 High Court decision. The Secretary of State had turned down the planning application, but the High Court has upheld a judicial review of the rejected planning permission. The only grounds on which the Secretary of State’s refusal was not overturned was his approach to the store’s sensitive heritage setting. However, this is not the end of the story. The Secretary of State now needs to redetermine the appeal. He could, in theory, still refuse planning permission. What will the Secretary of State, whomever that may be, do after the general election?

A more sustainable and better path is possible. Trade offs are inevitable between the viability of the site, its heritage, its uses, its embodied carbon, ongoing sustainability and the quality, beauty and future of Oxford Street. Nevertheless, Create Streets believes that an approach which sought to reuse more of the existing building and was less dismissive of the existing setting would have been wiser, less costly for Marks and Spencer and more popular with the wider public. Working with the internationally significant classical architect, Francis Terry, we have therefore worked up an alternative proposal which;

  • Creates a comparable volume of overall development to ensure viability;
  • Could be built to a broadly comparable cost;
  • Accepts some demolition whilst saving what can be saved;
  • Encloses the street more fittingly and elegantly to Oxford Street’s long-term benefit;
  • Creates an improved new public space at Granville Place;
  • Creates elegant public arcades through the site;
  • Creates a development in which it would be possible to create homes as well as offices and shops; and
  • Creates a better street with a raised crossing and street trees

Our approach is much more popular with the general public and this something we can agree on. In a national opinion poll conducted by Deltapoll in February 2024,

  • The British public overwhelmingly preferred our design by 79 per cent to 17 per cent;
  • This preference transcends politics. Voters for all three main British parties strongly preferred our design with Liberal Democrat voters being closest to the national average (80 vs 15 per cent for Liberal Democrat voters; 76 vs 20 per cent for Labour voters and 83 vs 14 per cent for Conservative voters).
  • This preference transcends views on Europe. Views on the design from “remain” and “leave” voters were almost identical. (80 vs 15 per cent for “remain” voters and 80 vs 17 per cent for “leave” voters).
  • A preference that is shared by rich and poor. Those of ABC1 social status and of C2DE social status both strongly prefer our design. (82 vs. 15 per cent for ABC1 and 75 vs. 21 per cent for C2DE).
  • A preference that is shared everywhere. Respondents in every British region strongly preferred our design with the highest support in the South of England (83 vs. 13 per cent) and Scotland (83 per cent vs 15 per cent) and the lowest in Wales (71 vs 26 per cent).
  • A preference of old and young. Clear majorities of all age groups preferred our design though with support slightly increasing with age. (75 vs 23 per cent for those aged 18-24 and 83 vs. 12 per cent for those aged over 65).

Read the full report here    

Read The Sunday Times article here

Watch Robert Kwolek’s interview on GB News below