Councillors have narrowly voted against plans to demolish a former M&S in Glasgow to make way for student accommodation.

In a move dubbed "hypocritical" by opposition politicians, an application to flatten the 1935 Sauchiehall Street structure and build student flats was rejected due to the "over-concentration" of that type of home.

Following the debate the council's planning committee was split 50/50 but the chair, councillor Elaine Gallagher, had the deciding vote and the application was rejected.

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney called the move NIMBY-ism and said it was a "repulsive and erratic" signal to send to new investors to the city.

READ MORE: Designs are revealed for the future of M&S Sauchiehall Street

He said: "It is the height of hypocrisy for SNP councillors to champion a city centre strategy on one hand - including the same councillor who chairs the City Centre Taskforce - but then object to and block a high-quality proposal such as this one, which would help repopulate this part of Sauchiehall Street and enliven an area which has seen a collapse in vibrancy in recent years."

Planning officials were favour of the development, stating in their report: “If implemented, the proposal will deliver economic development benefits within the city centre through investment in the built fabric, increased population, and the creation of employment opportunities.

“This would also assist in delivering alternative uses in the Sauchiehall Street area –- being a strategic priority to ensure the vitality of the city centre.

“The proposed use is appropriate to the city centre environment and will encourage footfall and activity within the neighbourhood.

“The proposed scheme would deliver an additional 633 rooms to the Glasgow student accommodation offer. Given the demand for accommodation, it will not lead to an over-supply, but would rather assist in addressing the crucial shortfall issues within the student accommodation market.”

Mr Sweeney added: "I initially opposed the original plan due to its proposal to demolish the historic 1936-38 Art Deco façade by Robert Lutyens and J.M. Monro which would have been unacceptable in the Central Conservation Area, but to their credit the architect took my feedback on board along with that of Historic Environment Scotland and revised the scheme so that the historic facade was integrated harmoniously into the new building.

"The flimsy NIMBY justifications for opposition to its construction fly in the face of the council's own planning officers and I trust that it will be approved on appeal, but what a repulsive and erratic signal to send out to new investors in Glasgow who have made an effort to produce a high-quality design, especially when the Planning Committee regularly approves appallingly badly designed proposals."

The Herald:

The planning application drew four letters of support but 12 objections with concerns raised that the new building, which rises to 17 storeys, would be too high.

If successful, the building would have been five and eight storeys facing onto Sauchiehall Street.

On Renfrew Street the property would reach 11 and 18 storeys and it would also have been used for short stay accommodation outside academic term time.

During Tuesday’s planning meeting, councillors raised mixed views on the development proposals.  Ms Gallagher said: “While I am concerned about the proliferation of student accommodation, I am slightly more reassured this is a premise that could be put into other uses – for example apart-hotel.

“ I believe that [with] a big box store like the M&S that left us a year ago – I don’t think the economic situation is going to allow for those to prosper and I think that having more of the small retail spaces will be an improvement rather than have these big premises stand derelict.

READ MORE: Historic facade of M&S Sauchiehall Street is to be retained

“I would like the developers to look harder at the possibility of mainstream accommodation on this site so I am going to reject it and ask them to look further at this.”

But other councillors were in favour of the plans as they felt there wasn’t an alternative for the site.  Councillor Imran Alam said: “I am in huge favour and support of this application purely because I don’t see any other potential attractive propositions for that site for example accommodation for families or couples with young children.

“I think a student site will probably be ideal. The fact that the planner has ten sites in the UK in prominent places means they clearly know what they are doing.

"A lot of consultation has been carried out.

“The fact that international students are bringing in almost £300 million to the local economy in that part of the city centre and the so-called golden Z is part of the long term plans to regenerate it.

“I think this will go a long way to do that. I think this is a good site and I am happy to back it.”

The news of the store's closure was first exclusively revealed by The Herald's sister title the Glasgow Times in January last year.

Since the subsequent announcement that the building could be turned into students flats there has been a sustained campaign to ensure the Art Deco facade was retained, backed by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney and Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

The building, described as one of the finest on Sauchiehall Street, did not meet the criteria for listing.

A HES spokesperson said at the time: "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."

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.

The company said a change in shopping habits, particularly post-pandemic, had meant the branch was no longer viable.

Its closure dealt another blow to the already criticised and beleaguered street that has suffered multiple major shop closures and the destruction of main buildings in several fires.

M&S Sauchiehall Street was the first in Scotland to have a café and also the first to have staff wear co-ordinated uniforms, with dark dresses and starched white collars.

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