Conservationists are celebrating a surprising victory after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles threw out a “wholly unacceptable” £160 million scheme to redevelop much of Smithfield Market.
The decision came after a high-profile campaign to halt the proposed scheme, which would have turned the western end of the market into an office, shop and restaurant complex.
It was backed by figures including Alan Bennett and Kristin Scott Thomas, who compared the plan to the destruction of Les Halles market in Paris. In his ruling today Pickles said plans by developer Henderson Global Investors to demolish parts of the market and replace it with office blocks would be of great detriment to the surrounding area. Pickles blamed the City Corporation for the condition of the buildings. His report said: The deteriorated state of the buildings is, at least in part, the result of the history of deliberate neglect.’
Opponents of the scheme presented their own proposal, which would bring the buildings back into use as a Spitalfields-style street market ready to take advantage of Crossrail. Those plans would not involve any demolition. The current empty poultry market buildings were used in the film ‘Skyfall’.
Having already lost so much of the city to glass boxes in which Russian gangsters can park their money, this is very welcome news. The battle won’t end here, of course. But for once someone has recognised that the site, of astonishing historical interest (which I’ll happily go into if anyone’s interested) is of national importance and should be properly dealt with.