Marks & Spencer could pull the plug on dozens of building projects across the UK as boss Steve Rowe steps up his turnaround plans.
The high street giant could be set to can its involvement in developments including shopping malls, town centre regeneration projects and residential sites, according to The Mail on Sunday.
Such a move is likely to put M&S on a collision course with councils up and down the country, since many of the schemes are being backed by public money and could create thousands of jobs.
It is thoughts M&S could be involved in as many as 60 of the building projects across the UK.
The retailer is already radically rethinking its property portfolio under the leadership of former Saturday boy Rowe and chairman Archie Norman.
It previously revealed plans to shutter around 30 underperforming stores and is also slowing down its Simply Food opening programme.
But Rowe and Norman’s property overhaul could extend far beyond existing stores.
Property sources have warned of the impact that could have on developments already in progress after M&S pulled out of a £100m project in Rochdale.
The town council’s chief executive Steve Rumbelow hinted that it could take legal action against the retailer.
Rumbelow told The Mail on Sunday: “As far as the council is concerned, Marks & Spencer has a legally-binding agreement to take space in Rochdale Riverside.
“They negotiated a deal as a key anchor tenant and committed to it knowingly and willingly. Marks & Spencer should be under no illusion that we expect them to fulfil their legal obligation to Rochdale and the new retail scheme.”
M&S said talks were “ongoing” about the Rochdale scheme and insisted it had made no decision on other developments at this stage.
A spokesman said: “As part of our transformation programme, we are reviewing potential store openings and will only proceed with sites that will deliver the highest returns. We will provide an update when the time is right.”