A campaign to retain the art deco facade of a former Glasgow Marks and Spencer store is being backed by heritage chiefs.

Historic Environment Scotland has agreed that the facade of the former store on Sauchiehall Street should not be demolished.

A developer is proposing to build a major mixed-use complex including a large student accommodation facility. The store closed in 2022.

Read more: River Clyde: Quay wall project could open up riverside

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney revealed that while HES wouldn't be going as far as listing the building, the body would be in favour of the facade being preserved.

The Herald: Marks and Spencer's Sauchiehall Street in the early 1960sMarks and Spencer's Sauchiehall Street in the early 1960s (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson for HES said: "We were consulted at pre-application for the proposed demolition of the former Marks and Spencer building at 164-184 Sauchiehall Street. Built in white artificial stone, the building is relatively prominent on Sauchiehall Street and we advised that the classical façade should be retained and sensitively incorporated into any redevelopment of the site. While the building did not meet the criteria for inclusion on the list of buildings of special architectural and historic interest, it does have architectural and historic merit and makes a positive contribution to the Glasgow Central Conservation Area."

Read more: Loch Lomond: New lower speed zones could be implemented in safety move

Mr Sweeney said HES's viewpoint was warmly welcomed, adding: "The façade of the old M&S unit contributes positively to Sauchiehall Street and is one of the few examples of art deco architecture in the city.

“It should be retained, and I am hopeful the developer will work towards that eventual outcome.”

The Herald: Marks and Spencer closed its Sauchiehall Street store in April 2022Marks and Spencer closed its Sauchiehall Street store in April 2022 (Image: The old M&S on Sauchiehall Street)

The Marks and Spencer store, designed by Robert Lutyens, had a place on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street for 87 years before closing its doors for good in April 2022.

Shutters will come down on the historic shop, which opened in 1935, just weeks after the closure was announced.

The store was the first in Scotland to have a café and also had staff wearing co-ordinated uniforms, with dark dresses and starched white collars, for the first time.

It was also home to some of the most decorated M&S colleagues to serve in the forces during the Second World War.

Marks and Spencer bosses said the closure was in response to “changing” shopping habits in what was described as another blow in the street’s “collapse”.

Leading Scots architect Professor Alan Dunlop described it as one of the finest buildings on Sauchiehall Street.

"Until Marks and Spencers brutalised it, the Robert Lutyens facade was one of the finest on Sauchiehall Street, certainly one of the best Art Deco facades in Glasgow and probably in the west of Scotland. I would certainly support its retention," he said.

"I would also support any move by HES to return the street entrance to its original pre 1960's design. Sauchiehall Street is on its knees at the moment, to remove one of the finest commercial facades and replace it student accommodation is not what is needed to revive it.

"It was successfully achieved just a few steps away with the restoration of the Mackintosh Tearooms, same can happen with the Lutyens Facade."  

Despite investment in recent years, with a redevelopment increasing space for pedestrians and cyclists, Sauchiehall Street has been plagued with large numbers of vacant units.

The Herald: Glasgow Marks and Spencer's Sauchiehall Street storeGlasgow Marks and Spencer's Sauchiehall Street store (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson for developers Fusion Students said: “As part of the formal planning pre-application process, we are continuing to engage with a range of parties, including the local community, Glasgow City Council and Historic Environment Scotland to bring forward the best solution for the site.

“As required by current and emerging planning policy, we are considering all options for the building including its partial or full retention, re-use or redevelopment and are currently undertaking surveys of the building to inform an evaluation of the options and the impacts of these on the Central Conservation Area. This assessment will be submitted with the planning and conservation area applications in due course for formal review by the Council and interested parties.

“We have shown images of the greatest level of change in order that parties can appreciate what might come forward in that scenario, but it is important for all to recognise that the regeneration of this part of Sauchiehall Street will require significant change to deliver increased levels of activity which in turn contributes to the vitality and viability that is essential for successful city centres – shopping can no longer provide this on its own.

“We are really pleased that our redevelopment plans are driven by strong design and sustainability credentials and that they are closely in line with the City and Council’s vision for the local area. By delivering high-quality residential accommodation, the proposals can make a meaningful contribution to Glasgow City Council’s ambition to double the city centre residential population and offer an opportunity to build a resilient and sustainable city centre with all amenities within a short walk.”