Celeb-backed bid to save Smithfield Market from developers a success
11:42 08 July 2014
Historians behind a celeb-backed bid to save an 800-year-old market from developers are celebrating after the Government blocked the move.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, stepped in on Tuesday to halt £160million re-the development of Smithfield General Market, in Farringdon Road.
The scheme to knock down a quarter of buildings and build a seven storey office at the Farrindgon market was opposed by celebrities – including writer Alan Bennett and Four Weddings and a Funeral star Kristin Scott Thomas – heritage groups and Islington Council, but developers TIAA Henderson Real Estate said it was the only viable option.
But the Secretary of State found the proposal “wholly unacceptable” and said it would “damage” important heritage assets.
Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State has recognised the importance of Smithfield General Market.
“These buildings are vital to the character of Smithfield and to the commercial, industrial and architectural history of the City of London.
“Buildings like Smithfield General Market are what make the City such a special place.
“We hope that this decision will cause developers and the City of London to reappraise the importance of the City’s heritage and ensure that future schemes put buildings this like these at the centre of their plans.
“It is now time for the City of London and Henderson to work together to bring forward a conservation-led scheme that will repair and reopen this magnificent complex of buildings. After two public inquiries it should now be clear that the current approach is flawed.
“We are looking forward to seeing proposals which will ensure that Smithfield General Market is brought back into public use for Londoners and visitors to enjoy.”
Geoff Harris, from Henderson said: “We are surprised and extremely disappointed with the decision taken by the Secretary of State, which, in our view, has been influenced by a disingenuous campaign employed by a small minority of objectors.
“Our scheme was supported by English Heritage, Design Council, the City of London, the Mayor of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association; our scheme would have saved and brought back to life these Victorian market buildings that have lain empty for decades and this decision will condemn these disused historic buildings to continued decay and yet further uncertainty.”
The full decision by the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Western Market buildings are an integral part of the group of market buildings that is a key characteristic of the Smithfield Conservation Area and that it is important that they are repaired and put into a beneficial use It added: “He finds that the proposal to demolish important parts of significant market buildings, to the great detriment to the surrounding area, to be wholly unacceptable.“
The General Market was built in 1883 and sold fruit and vegetables. It closed in the 80s and has been empty since – there has been some kind of market on the site for 800 years.