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UK's M&S wins court challenge over blocked Marble Arch store plan

Published 01/03/2024, 11:59
Updated 01/03/2024, 16:50
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Marks & Spencer logo is seen at a store near Marble Arch on Oxford Street, in London, Britain, February 29, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) -The British government's decision to block retailer Marks & Spencer from rebuilding its flagship store in Marble Arch in central London was unlawful, the High Court ruled on Friday.

Michael Gove, Britain's Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, last year refused planning permission for the scheme on heritage and environmental grounds, overturning approval from the local council.

M&S (LON:MKS) wants to redevelop the Art Deco building that dates back to 1929 and is located at one end of Oxford Street, London's most famous shopping thoroughfare.

The company took the government to court over the decision, with its Chief Executive Stuart Machin, one of the best-known names in British business, calling Gove's decision "utterly pathetic".

Following a hearing in February, Judge Nathalie Lieven ruled on Friday that Gove misapplied Britain's planning policy and overturned his decision.

Lieven said Gove had also failed to give adequate reasons for why refusing permission would not cause wider harm to London's West End, despite M&S saying it would leave the site if it could not redevelop the store.

M&S Operations Director Sacha Berendji said in a statement the retailer's planned redevelopment "would deliver one of London's greenest buildings, create thousands of new jobs and rejuvenate the capital's premier shopping district."

"The Secretary of State now has the power to unlock the wide-ranging benefits of this significant investment and send a clear message to UK and global business that the government supports sustainable growth and the regeneration of our towns and cities," Berendji added.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Marks & Spencer logo is seen at a store near Marble Arch on Oxford Street, in London, Britain, February 29, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams/File Photo

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "We acknowledge the judgment and are considering our next steps."

In January, M&S reported a better-than-expected 8.1% rise in sales over the Christmas trading period, driven by market-leading growth in food and a strong performance in womenswear.

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