Ruling had been due next week but now not expected before 20 July

Michael Gove has delayed his decision on Marks & Spencer’s controversial plans to rebuild its flagship Oxford Street store by three months.

The communities secretary had previously said he would make a final ruling on the called-in plans “on or before 3 May”.

The Pilbrow & partners-designed scheme near Marble Arch in central London was approved in 2021 and later backed by Sadiq Khan, despite concerns from heritage and environmental groups about the carbon and townscape impacts of knocking down the 1930s building.

Pilbrow &  Partners' proposals for the Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer

Pilbrow & Partners’ proposals for the Marble Arch branch of Marks & Spencer

The plans were called in by Gove last summer and went to a public inquiry overseen by the Planning Inspectorate in a case which is widely expected to be a bellwether for how planning authorities will approach future demolish and rebuild projects.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the decision would now not be issued before 20 July.

A letter from the department sent to Marks & Spencer, Westminster council and Save Britain’s Heritage, the inquiry’s rule 6 party which allowed it cross-examine evidence, said: “Further time is required to consider this case, and it will not be possible to reach a decision on this application on or before the above date.”

The department did not provide any further explanation for why the decision had been delayed.

Last year’s three-week inquiry into the scheme ended in a row as Save Britain’s Heritage accused Marks & Spencer’s legal team of making defamatory statements.

M&S had issued a press release following the conclusion of hearings which claimed Save Britain’s heritage had made a “significant move” by accepting the retailer’s arguments about sustainability.

Save’s director Henrietta Billings described the press release as “deliberately misleading and inaccurate”.

> Also read: Campaign group lays into ‘inaccurate’ M&S claims over Oxford Street proposal

> Also read: Developers will lose customers if they fail to retrofit buildings, M&S inquiry told

The campaign group’s legal team also sent a letter to M&S chairman Archie Norman in response accusing the firm of making “highly irresponsible statements” that were likely to cause serious harm to the campaign group’s reputation.

An M&S spokesperson said the firm remained fully confident in the accuracy of the press release, adding: “We are proud of our plans to deliver a bold, sustainable and innovative Marble Arch site which is the only viable and deliverable option and the sole retail-led regeneration on the nation’s most famous, but challenged, high street.”