Anger as London Mayor backs M&S Oxford Avenue demolition plan

Anger as London Mayor backs M&S Oxford Street demolition plan

Speaking on behalf of Khan, Deputy Mayor for Planning Jules Pipe said he was “pleased with the approval of the local planning authority [Westminster City Council] authority to determine the case itself” in a letter dated March 7.

Back in November, Westminster gave its support for the demolition and reconstruction program designed by Pilbrow & Partners. This comes despite warnings from Labour’s Geoff Barraclough – the only councilor to vote against the scheme – that the new build would cost 39,500 tonnes of CO2 upfront, more than 20 times what the local authority saves annually from its entire building stock want by retrofitting.

Prior to the mayor’s decision, the GLA had received a number of critical reports – written by its own carbon advisor, Simon Sturgis – warning that Pilbrow’s 10-story project was in direct contradiction to planning policy, including its own stated policy retrofit the GLA for prioritization.

Still, the planning report that accompanies the mayor’s decision makes no mention of the Sturgis report, claiming the GLA received only one objection, a separate filing lamenting the loss of “a beautiful Art Deco building.”

The planning report also describes Arup’s lifetime CO2 emissions calculations on behalf of M&S as “acceptable”, although this analysis is a key target of Sturgis’ criticism.

This week, following extensive industry consultation, the GLA released its full guidance on Lifetime Carbon Assessments and the Circular Economy. On Wednesday evening (March 30), Khan also attended a climate-focused business reception and claimed that companies that are leaders in this space would reap a “massive first-mover advantage” in the emerging net-zero economy.

But Simon Sturgis – the co-author of the GLA’s lifetime carbon policy – accused them of not enforcing that policy and questioned Khan’s leadership.

“It seems the mayor isn’t really serious about reaching the climate targets he has set out for, or net zero by 2050,” he said.

“Given the climate crisis and the need to change direction [on development and construction], many local authorities say they want to reach net zero faster than the central government. But they just don’t deliver. This is business as usual.’

SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which commissioned the Sturgis report, submitted it to the GLA on February 25, while it was also shared with the GLA press office by the AJ on February 21, before any news about it was released.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “Simon Sturgis is the GLA’s own advisor on climate change. It is extraordinary that his report, which highlighted concerns about the climate crisis surrounding the demolition of the M&S business, seemed to be overlooked in that decision, not even mentioned.

“We are writing to the mayor urging him to reconsider this decision in light of the findings of the Sturgis report.”

The AJ understands SAVE also plans to write to Community Secretary Michael Gove urging him to submit the project.

Sian Berry, a member of the London Assembly and former leader of the Green Party, said she hopes Gove will ask the mayor to reconsider and said the apparent ignoring of the Sturgis report made his decision contestable.

She added: “Other parts of the mayoral team are actively working on policies to challenge precisely that type of decision.

“Since the mayor is very proud to be the chairman of the [climate-focused] C40 group, it would be good to see him not only develop policies on embodied carbon, but actually implement them when given the opportunity.’

A spokesman for the mayor declined to comment on why the Sturgis report was not considered.

They said: “The mayor has made addressing the climate emergency an urgent priority […] The Mayor’s commitment is driven by the sustainable policy in the London Plan with the requirement that all new buildings be zero carbon.

“In line with the guidelines of the London Whole Life Carbon Plan, the issue of retention and refurbishment or demolition and new construction has been considered in the GLA’s assessment of this application.

“Officials’ advice was that there were no sound planning reasons for the mayor to intervene in this case.

“Although refurbishment provides the greatest possible benefits in terms of embodied carbon, this would be offset by the poor energy performance of the buildings and over time the refurbished buildings would have a larger overall carbon footprint than new construction.”

Existing M&S building at Marble Arch

Source: Shutterstock Ana Moskvina