Gove 'prefers American Candy stores hawking fake goods,' says M&S boss

Marks & Spencer hits back after Michael Gove blocks its plan for new Oxford Street store and claims the Communities Secretary prefers American Candy stores ‘hawking counterfeit goods’ instead

  • Sacha Berendji, M&S’s store development boss, said Michael Gove prefers shops ‘hawking counterfeit goods’
  • The 1930s Art Deco-style Orchard House was to be demolished along with M&S’s iconic flagship store 
  • US sweet shops lacing Oxford Street have come under fire for selling counterfeit products 

Retail giant Marks & Spencer have hit back after Michael Gove blocked its plan for a new Oxford Street store saying he must prefer American Candy stores ‘hawking counterfeit goods’ instead. 

M&S’s proposal to flatten its flagship 1929 Art Deco store on Oxford Street and replace it with a much larger 10-storey retail and office block was supported last November by Westminster City Council, the Greater London Authority and Sadiq Khan.

The high street firm has said it was ‘bewildered and disappointed’ with the Communities Secretary’s ‘baseless’ decision – and claimed he prefers the ‘proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods’ over its plans to invest in the store.

Sacha Berendji, group property, store development and technology director at M&S, said: ‘After two years of working with Westminster City Council, the GLA and the local business and resident community which has supported the development at every stage, we are bewildered and disappointed at Michael Gove’s baseless decision to call in the proposed redevelopment of our Marble Arch site.

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud and comedian Griff Rhys Jones have joined leading figures in calling for a public inquiry into proposals to demolish Marks and Spencer ‘s largest and most prestigious store on London ‘s Oxford Street. The 1930s Art Deco-style Orchard House is set to be demolished along with two other buildings that house M&S’s iconic flagship store (pictured above in 2020 compared with its planned replacement)

Michael Gove (pictured) has been accused of ‘preferring stores hawking counterfeit goods’ over the plans to redesign Marks & Spencer’s on Oxford Street

 ‘The Secretary of State has blocked the only retail-led regeneration in the whole of Oxford Street in a building which was refused listed status due to its low design quality and, while safe, cannot be modernised through refitting as it’s three separate buildings containing asbestos.

‘Twenty percent of units on Oxford Street lay vacant and the Secretary of State appears to prefer a proliferation of stores hawking counterfeit goods to a gold-standard retail-led regeneration of the nation’s favourite high street.’

M&S wants to replace its 91-year-old landmark store with a 10-storey building, and it was given the green light to the plans before Mr Gove’s intervention.

The 1930s Art Deco-style Orchard House was set to be demolished along with two other buildings that house M&S’s iconic flagship store.

In its place would have been a modern 10-storey mixed-use building containing a new M&S store, along with cafe and restaurant areas, as well as prime office gym space and a new pedestrian arcade.

The comments come at a time when US sweet shops lacing the iconic London street have come under fire for selling counterfeit products.

Earlier this month, Westminster City Council seized a haul of counterfeit products totalling £100,000 from three unnamed stores on London’s Oxford Street.

Trading standards officers from Westminster Council have raided some of the deluge of tacky, overpriced US-themed sweet and souvenir shops that have been taking over high streets. 

There are now at least ten candy stores between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road stations alone – equating to roughly one every 200 yards – with some offering other services like foreign currency exchange. 

A spokesman for the New West End Company added that ‘high levels of investment and development’ are needed in order for Oxford Street to prosper.

Dee Corsi, chief operating officer at New West End Company, said: ‘Securing a bright and prosperous future for Oxford Street requires high levels of investment and development.

‘It is vital that the council and businesses redouble efforts to work together to deliver the long-awaited public realm investment, and ensure progressive planning and licencing policies are in place to enable businesses to respond to changing customer trends, by delivering innovative and future proof buildings that are fit for purpose for a revived, dynamic high street.’

Earlier this year, Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud and comedian Griff Rhys Jones joined leading figures in calling for a public inquiry into proposals to demolish Oxford Street’s Marks and Spencer.

Marks and Spencer’s plan would have seen Orchard House and two other buildings – which have been home to the retailer since its construction in 1930 – completely demolished to make way for one new 10-storey building. Pictured: The Marks and Spencer building in Oxford Street in 1964

M&S chiefs say 90 per cent of materials from the old building will be recycled to develop the new building and that once complete the new site will be carbon positive – meaning it will actually take away carbon dioxide rather than produce it

The high-profile public figures are among 27 people from the worlds of heritage, architecture and sustainability who have signed an open letter to Communities Secretary Michael Gove.

In the two-page letter, which was organised by campaigning group Save Britain’s Heritage, they call for Mr Gove to launch a probe into plans that they claim would ‘pump nearly 40,000 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere’.

They call the proposals ‘wrong’ and ‘environmentally wasteful’ and say they would destroy and ‘elegant and important interwar building’.

In April, Mr Gove intervened by ordering a pause to the proposed development so that the plans could be scrutinised further.

But while M&S bosses said the multi-million redevelopment would help maintain – and improve – its offering on Oxford Street despite the rapidly changing face of retail, critics reacted with fury at the loss of one of the famous location’s most iconic buildings.

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