Westminster council backs office-led scheme pending outcome of listing bid for 1930s department store

Pilbrow & Partners’ plans to demolish the flagship branch of Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street and replace it with a huge office-led scheme have won the backing of Westminster council.

Members of the authority’s planning committee approved the architect’s proposals for M&S’s Marble Arch branch by five votes to one following a two-hour session last night.

The move paves the way for the demolition of M&S’s main Orchard House building, which dates back to the 1930s, and two other connected structures, to make way for a new 10-storey mixed-use building featuring retail, office and restaurant space. An arcade would link Oxford Street to Granville Place at the north of the building.

However the plans could be impacted by a listing bid for Orchard House that is currently awaiting decision from ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport. Westminster’s approval also requires the backing of mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Government heritage advisor Historic England compiled the listing application. It has also voiced concerns about the Pilbrow scheme’s impact on the neighbouring Selfridges department store, which is grade II* listed.

The Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer, seen from the east

The Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer, seen from the east, with Selfridges to its right

Six-storey Orchard House was designed by Trehearne & Norman and speculatively built, with M&S taking space in the basement and part of the ground floor. The retail giant did not take over the whole building and extend its operations to the north of the site until 1967.

Pilbrow’s new building would have a gross internal area of 60,777sq m – almost double the 35,591sq m of floorspace provided by the structures it would replace. However the amount of retail space at the site would more than halve from 13,653sq m, with office space – at 45,621sq m – becoming the dominant use. 

Last night’s meeting heard M&S was committed to retaining retail space on the ground, first and lower ground floors of the new building.

Pilbrow & Partners' plans for the redevelopment of the Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer, seen from the east

Pilbrow & Partners’ plans for the redevelopment of the Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer, seen from the east

Backing the proposals, planning committee chair Robert Rigby said the panel preferred buildings to be reused rather than demolished.

But he added: “In everything there have to be exceptions and this particular application meets that exception.”

He said Marks & Spencer’s proposals for 90% of the materials on the current site to be reused were a “particularly positive feature” of the scheme and to be commended.

Planninig officers’ report to last night’s meeting said that although the proposals were likely to result in a “significant reduction” of retail space on the site, Oxford Street was facing a number of challenges from rival retail hubs, such as Westfield, and online shopping.

Officers said the proposals would introduce flexibility to the location in terms of its uses, create up to 2,000 jobs, and “hopefully secure the long-term future of Marks & Spencer on the site”.

Earlier this month Westminster backed PDP London-designed proposals for the redevelopment of the House of Fraser department store near Oxford Circus, which will see the existing building refurbished and extended to provide six floors of offices above a revamped retail offer.

Pilbrow & Partners has been approached for comment.