Investors in Marks and Spencer have turned up the pressure on the UK retailer, with renewed calls for the appointment of an independent chairman to replace Sir Stuart Rose.

The promotion of Sir Stuart from CEO to executive chairman – combining the roles of chairman and chief executive – sparked widespread investor condemnation last year, when 22% of the group’s shareholders failed to back Sir Stuart’s appointment.

The local authority pension funds forum (LAPFF) said yesterday (29 March) that it will table a motion at the company’s AGM in July, proposing the appointment of an independent chairman by July 2010.

The resolution is intended to act as a “safety valve” for shareholders who want the company to uphold corporate governance best practice but do not want to vote against Sir Stuart, LAPFF said.

A spokesperson for LAPFF told just-food: “The proposed resolution is intended to push the company to adhere to corporate governance best practice.”

For its part, a Marks and Spencer spokesperson said that the company was “pleased” LAPFF continued to have “confidence” in Sir Stuart’s leadership.

However, the spokesperson added: “We are disappointed to receive notice of the resolution.”

Sir Stuart’s leadership direction has received increased attention of late, with the recession in the UK hitting M&S more than many of its peers. The company is set to issue a trading update tomorrow.