Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State
Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP: Marks & Spencer Marble Arch Store Redevelopment
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Dear Secretary of State,
Marks & Spencer Marble Arch Store Redevelopment
We were very disappointed to learn that you have called in the proposed redevelopment by
Marks & Spencer of their Marble Arch store on Oxford Street despite it being approved by both
Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority.
As we understand, the existing building has little historical or architectural significance. It has been rejected for listing by Historic England and is specifically excluded from the Conservation Area. The replacement building would have a substantial, long term, positive environmental impact. It would be a model of both design and sustainability and a significant enhancement of Oxford Street.
Our major concern, however, is the effect that your decision will have on the future viability of Oxford Street. Oxford Street has suffered from project delays and lack of investment for many years. While Regent Street and Bond Street have been transformed by public and private investment in both the buildings and public realm, Oxford Street lags far behind. This is undermining the appeal of the West End as an international centre.
The West End draws visitors from around the world who contributed over £28 billion to the UK
economy in 2019. But the West End, as one of the world’s top shopping, leisure and entertainment centres, is also a major reason why investors choose to invest and live in London and why talent in industries such as financial services, technology and biotech choses to work in London, rather than in our international competitor cities.
And a thriving West End has a positive impact on businesses throughout the UK. High performing West End stores support marginal stores in other British towns and cities. The West End is a national shop window for brands manufactured throughout the UK and sold in stores in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street.
COVID-19 hit the West End particularly hard, halting international tourism and confining 500,000 West End office workers to their homes. West End retailers and hospitality suffered an 80% fall in revenue from £10 billion in 2019 to under £2 billion in 2020-21. With international visitors and office workers slow to return, the West End is still struggling with the impact of COVID-19. A recent report commissioned by New West End Company showed voids on Oxford Street, the nation’s high street, reached over 30% at the peak of the Pandemic. Empty stores are being filled with low quality tenants, particularly candy stores, which are further undermining Oxford Street’s attraction and vitality.
Marks and Spencer’s decision to invest in Oxford Street has a particularly important significance for the future of Oxford Street and the West End. It shows confidence and commitment and helps to lead the way out of the COVID-19 slump. If a major national retailer choses to make a substantial investment in Oxford Street, it sends a positive signal to others.
But now your decision to call in the application indicates, at best, yet a further delay in investment in Oxford Street. The Elizabeth Line faced a four-year delay in opening its Oxford Street stations and they are not yet fully operational. Westminster City Council’s Oxford Street District Transformation Scheme has fallen years behind and is now under consideration yet again. Our fear is that the much-needed investment in Oxford Street will be jeopardised as investors see yet more delay.
If the West End is to compete with our rival districts around the globe, we need to encourage
investment, not just in public realm but in new buildings and facilities that will attract and
accommodate new formats and new experiences. It is deeply unhelpful when just such an investment is put into jeopardy by a national planning decision taken by your department that goes against the local decisions of both the Council and the GLA and which fails to take into account the wider impact of this delay.
We urge you to reconsider this decision or at the very least expedite the process and show the world that London and the UK is the place for investment.
With kind regards.
Sir Peter Rogers, Chairman, New West End Company
- Giles Easter, Chief Executive, Astrea Asset Management
- Claude Abi Gerges, Managing Director, Capital Arches Group
- Paul Williams, Chief Executive, Derwent London
- Inderneel Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Edwardian Hotels London
- Kam Lee, UK Portfolio Manager, Kam Lee Associates
- Toby Courtauld, Chief Executive, GPE
- Jake Walsh, Managing Director, Hines
- Phil Hardie, Chairman, Langham Estate Management Limited
- Hugh Milward, General Manager, Corporate, External Legal, Microsoft UK
- Roger Thornton, Head of Property, Motcomb Estates
- Mark Evans, Head of Property and Commercial Development, Royal London Asset Management
- Meave Wall, Executive Director – Stores, Selfridges & Co.
- Oliver Fenn-Smith, Chief Executive Officer, The Portman Estate
- Brian Duffy, Chief Executive Officer, The Watches of Switzerland Group