Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has rejected Marks and Spencer’s planning application to demolish their Marble Arch store and replace it with a 10 storey block of offices and smaller store.
The application was approved by Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority. Nevertheless following representations from Save Britain’s Heritage and other high profile supporters, the Secretary of State called the planning application in. Following a public inquiry held in November 2022, a Planning Inspector recommended approving the application focusing on viability and benefits to employment and the regeneration of Oxford Street.
Following his overturn of Berkeley Homes application for 165 homes in Tunbridge Wells in June 2023 the Secretary of State discarded the Inspectors decision. Instead he determined that the heritage harm and the carbon impact in demolishing and constructing the new building outweighed approving the planning application.
The decision matters because it demonstrates the Government’s favoured approach to the delivery of carbon reduction is through the re-use of buildings as opposed to their demolition.
Whilst the Secretary of State stated that his decision should not set a precedent, developers who are considering regeneration projects or homeowners who are planning to demolish existing buildings must (unless permitted development rights apply) demonstrate they have considered reducing embodied carbon through a retrofit first approach.