Friday, 30 January 2009

Market sets out its stall

The row over proposals for Smithfield has reached a new milestone

Smithfield Market has the feel of a British gangster film. Rubbish in the gutters sets it apart from the more gentrified parts of Farringdon, and anything could be happening behind the large doors of the dirty Victorian buildings. Guy Ritchie would have a field day.

While the market continues to bustle, as markets have done on the site since the 10th century, the General Market and two smaller neighbouring buildings languish unused. This spring, consultation about a development on the site will start all over again. In November, developer Thornfield Properties appointed architectural practice John McAslan & Partners to analyse the buildings, and in spring the architect will start consultation with the developer and other interested bodies.

While the development timetable depends on the speed of the consultation process with bodies such as the City of London corporation and English Heritage, it could take three years to form a new plan. The concern of conservation bodies, such as Save Britain’s Heritage, is the decline of the Victorian buildings.

Trading architects

McAslan’s appointment represents a change of direction on the site. McAslan is looking at how Thornfield could retain the existing buildings, while the previous design by Kohn Pedersen Fox was a new build. Despite winning planning permission in April, the plan was rejected in August because communities and local government secretary Hazel Blears said it would ‘significantly detract’ from the existing market complex and be ‘detrimental’ to the historic buildings already on the site.

Kevin Lloyd, director at McAslan in charge of the Smithfield plans, says the practice wants to keep the existing buildings on the site within its development. He says this would have been the practice’s approach, even if the previous plan had not been rejected.

‘We’re coming at it with the hindsight of what’s gone before, but our approach is different anyway,’ says Lloyd. The architect hopes to reinstate the building in the General Market on Farringdon Road and is consulting English Heritage about how to incorporate existing buildings into future proposals.

Before plans are drawn up, the first step of the design process is analysis by McAslan of the fabric and condition of the buildings. This process will continue until spring. The architect is already starting to consider the mix of uses needed in the project to draw people to this area of London. In particular, Lloyd believes it is important to link into Cowcross Street, where Farringdon Tube station is situated.

‘Cowcross Street has survived because there is a quantum of space there,’ says Lloyd. ‘It has restaurants, it has bars and it creates itself as a destination.’ He adds that it will be a challenge to link the site to Farringdon Road, which is ‘not very easy to cross’.

The hall in the General Market building could be retained as a market, but for fashion and small stalls rather than meat or poultry. There is potential for small office units in the scheme and the area could support a hotel.

After working out how to use the existing buildings, McAslan would probably decide how Thornfield could initiate further development on top of them. However, Lloyd says Thornfield has left plans for the site open and the developer will not comment any further.

The appointment of McAslan has renewed hope among conservationists that buildings on the site will not be demolished. William Palin, secretary at Save Britain’s Heritage, one of the chief objectors to the previous Smithfield plan, cautiously welcomes the appointment of McAslan because of its track record of working on conservation-led projects, such as the refurbishment of the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, and the work around historic frontages at King’s Cross station.

‘We all know that McAslan’s a good architect. He’s used to working with historic buildings and he’s been keen to stress this is a conservation scheme. But until he comes out with the first design, we can’t judge how conservation-led this scheme will be,’ says Palin.

Still haggling

Palin says that, in the short term, the most important element of the Smithfield work is to improve the status of the buildings before redevelopment can take place. English Heritage and the City of London are in the process of agreeing a £100,000 grant to repair the buildings. This would include the General Market, Annex Market Buildings, Red House and a small Victorian toilet block.

Palin does not believe £100,000 is enough to preserve the buildings. While conservationists will undoubtedly watch Thornfield and McAslan’s new plan with interest, this is their biggest concern in the short term.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Farringdon Station Redevelopment

With the existing Tube lines, Crossrail and Network Rail’s Thameslink Programme, Farringdon will become a key strategic travel hub. Together these two projects will provide three new ticket halls, increased capacity, reduced congestion within the existing station and new journey opportunities with excellent airport connections and links to St. Pancras International.

“Farringdon Station will be one of London’s major rail interchange stations. Uniquely, it will link the east-west axis of Crossrail with the north-south rail axis of the enhanced Thameslink line. It also links directly with four of London’s airports – Heathrow, Luton, London City and Gatwick, and to London Underground’s Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines,” explains Tim Grimshaw, Crossrail Central project manager for Farringdon.

The Crossrail station platforms will be built underground between Farringdon Road and Charterhouse Square, offering interchanges with Thameslink and the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City Tube lines. Step-free access between the street and Crossrail platforms will be provided.

The western entrance on the south side of Cowcross Street will be shared with the new Thameslink station. The demolition of Cardinal House on Farringdon Road will provide space for interchanges between the Thameslink and Crossrail platforms.

The eastern ticket hall will be near the Barbican and integrated with the existing
LU Tube station at Barbican. It will be located on a site surrounded by Hayne Street, Long Lane, Lindsey Street and Charterhouse Street, with an entrance on Long Lane.

Regeneration benefits
Tony Lloyd, client package representative – Farringdon at Crossrail explains that both stations, especially Farringdon, offer tremendous opportunities in terms of regeneration and investment for surrounding areas. “The new Crossrail stations are designed to sympathetically integrate with the existing transport infrastructure while enhancing accessibility – in terms of creating faster, easier connections as well as improving passenger experience within stations.”

CABE have made a review of the current proposals - see link

Friday, 2 January 2009

Roman dig at Caxton House

Archaeologists will dig up part of a Clerkenwell building site before a 12-storey office block is allowed to go up due to fears it could pose a threat to an ancient Roman burial site.

While it was well known that the site in Farringdon Road, opposite Smithfield Market, was once part of the “Western Cemetery” of Roman London – potentially containing 200 bodies – archaeologists have never been able to get at the plot.

Earlier this month planning chiefs approved a scheme to demolish the 1960s Caxton House office block and car park, to make way for an environmentally friendly design that will boast a green roof and 112 cycle racks.

The site was also the scene of a fatal V2 rocket attack during the Second World War and the new development will feature a commemorative plaque.

Developers BPP Ltd found that any excavation to the basement car park would have a minimal impact. But they have been ordered to get their hands dirty as a condition on the development.

Under the plans, the current basement car park will be deepened by up to two metres.
As part of the deal, under a Section 106 agreement, the developer has agreed to put up £700,000 towards environmental and streetscape improvements and £500,00 to fund off-site affordable housing schemes.

A council spokesman said: “The condition is not unusual for these kinds of developments. If anything gets demolished in the area, because of its history, archaeologists would be expected to do a dig.”