Orchard House saved?

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 Michael Gove do next?

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.

Read the full report here.