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Local Democracy Reporting ServiceCopyright: PA Media
A flagship department store in Oxford Street has become the latest to win approval to transform some shopping areas in the building into offices.
John Lewis applied to have the option to transform the shop floors from the third to the eighth floors into offices.
David Wood, from the company’s real estate team said: “The existing building, which is our spiritual home has developed in a piecemeal fashion over a number of years in a somewhat disjointed and inefficient layout.”
He said the changes were needed to help John Lewis adapt to the new ways people shop and cut the amount of "underutilised back-of-house storage space".
Westminster City Council’s planning committee, which approved the decision, looked at how the move would affect the area’s status as a major retail destination.
Committee chairman Jim Glen said the shop “is a cornerstone of Oxford Street, a landmark store that people travel to".
Councillor Guthrie McKie pointed out that Debenhams changed its retail space over a year ago. It moved its head office back to the Oxford Street building as part of its £80m restructuring programme.
He added that he was concerned that John Lewis’ plan for its store might send a message that “the retail industry is not doing sufficiently well for Oxford Street to recover from its sad parlous situation”.
Oxford Street is normally London’s busiest shopping destination which attracts 13,060 shoppers an hour, according to a 2017 survey. However, numbers have dwindled this year due to the pandemic.
Last year Publica Properties Ltd won planning permission to transform 13,500 m sq of retail space in the House of Fraser store into offices on every floor from the ground floor to the seventh.
Boss Sharon White says the partnership is looking to online and a new range of services to revive sales.
By Dearbail Jordan
The West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is to meet with the head of John Lewis as part of efforts to stop the closure of the retail giant's Birmingham department store.Copyright: PA Media
John Lewis announced last week it was closing eight stores permanently including its branch at Birmingham's Grand Central shopping centre and a smaller outlet in Tamworth.
Mr Street has described the decision by John Lewis as "incredibly disappointing news" and that it risks being "a dreadful mistake" by the firm.
Mr Street is himself a former managing director of John Lewis and says he will be meeting with the company chairman for talks on Tuesday.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has described the decision by John Lewis to close its "flagship" Birmingham store as "incredibly disappointing news" and risks being "a dreadful mistake" by the firm.
Mr Street, himself a former managing director of the firm, said his thoughts were particularly with the employees - or partners - who are affected.Copyright: PA Media
“There is no question that the coronavirus pandemic has caused severe economic damage and uncertainty, but I still have enormous faith in Birmingham as a place to do business," he said in a statement.
"The city is one of the top three in the whole of the UK for retail, with high footfall and many other retailers thriving in recent years."
Despite John Lewis's decision he said his belief in the store was "unwavering" and that it could still "be a great success".Quote Message: At this stage the closure is still only a proposal, and one which I believe risks being a dreadful mistake. Therefore I will be making the case for why the company should not give up this tremendous opportunity in Birmingham." from Andy Street West Midlands Mayor
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John Lewis said it had to "secure the business's long-term future and respond to customers' shopping needs".
The Watford department store will not reopen and the John Lewis At Home store in Croydon will also shut down, as will travel sites at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras.