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The recent high court ruling upholding Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) right to demolish its flagship store in Oxford Street could indirectly lead to a planning preference for building reuse over demolition and new build.

M&S was granted planning permission to demolish its existing 1920s building in Oxford street, and rebuild a new 9 storey building. Despite planning permission being granted by Westminster City Council, the Secretary of State (SoS) Michael Gove ignored the planning inspectors advice and refused permission for the demolition on the grounds of carbon emissions and heritage.

M&S appealed this decision to the high court. In March 2024, it was ruled that his decision to block the redevelopment was unlawful.

Of the six counts (all relating to either carbon or heritage) brought against the SoS, the first count related to whether or not Gove had misinterpreted the NPPF by believing there to be a “strong presumption in favour of repurposing and reusing buildings”.

Mrs Justice Lieven stated “the SoS misinterpreted the NPPF, and therefore erred in law”. Furthermore, she stated that “it is important to note that where the NPPF wishes to create a presumption, or suggest or direct refusal if certain conditions are not met, this is made clear on the face of the NPPF”.

At present, the GLA has guidance in place to encourage and direct the construction sector to build lower carbon buildings. An update of this nature to the NPPF could align many local policies outside of London with an increasing push for refurbishment over replacement.