• A judge ruled Gove’s decision to block redevelopment was unlawful
  • M&S operations director Sacha Berendji said the judgement ‘couldn’t be clearer’ 
  • Housing Secretary will have to take a second look at the plans 

Marks & Spencer has won a High Court battle against Michael Gove after he blocked plans to demolish and rebuild its flagship store on Oxford Street.

In a victory for the High Street favourite as it seeks to redevelop the site, a judge ruled the Housing Secretary’s decision was unlawful.

M&S operations director Sacha Berendji said the judgement ‘couldn’t be clearer’.

Gove will have to take a second look at the plans, which M&S believes will help revive the area and boost its own business.

In July 2023, the MP for Surrey Heath denied M&S permission to demolish the 1929 art deco building near Marble Arch and build a much larger ten-storey retail and office block.

Embarrassment: Gove and how the new Marble Arch store would look

Embarrassment: Gove and how the new Marble Arch store would look

But in an embarrassment for the Government, High Court judge Mrs Justice Lieven yesterday concluded he had made a series of errors in his interpretation and application of planning policy. She agreed with M&S’s arguments on five out of the six counts the retailer brought forward last year.

‘The [Secretary of State] has not applied the policy, he has rewritten it,’ the judge said in her 30-page ruling.

She also lambasted Gove’s assertion that there would only be ‘limited’ harm to the wider area should the plans be rebuffed. His decision came even after M&S threatened to abandon the central London shopping street and an independent planning inspector concluded there would be ‘significant harm’ to the area. Mrs Justice Lieven said Gove ‘fails to explain why he reaches this conclusion’.

Last year, M&S boss Stuart Machin dubbed Gove’s decision ‘utterly pathetic’ and ‘senseless’. He accused the minister of taking ‘an anti-business approach, choking off growth and denying Oxford Street hundreds of thousands of new quality jobs’.

Berendji said: ‘The result has been a long, unnecessary and costly delay to the only retail-led regeneration on Oxford Street which would deliver one of London’s greenest buildings, create thousands of jobs and rejuvenate the capital’s premier shopping district.’ Gove had justified his initial decision on heritage and environmental grounds. But his decree flew in the face of support for the plan from local authorities and businesses.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: ‘We acknowledge the judgement and are considering our next steps.’

Some of Britain’s leading architects, including London Eye designer Julia Barfield, and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud opposed the plan.

James Souter, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said: ‘Today’s decision will be embarrassing for the Government. However, this does not automatically mean that planning permission will be granted – Gove will have to re-determine the appeal and could in theory still refuse planning permission.’

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