Friday, 13 December 2013

Eric Reynolds, the market man in last ditch bid to save Smithfield

An ambitious plan to save historic Smithfield Market from partial demolition by turning it into a modern-day market has been lodged by campaign groups and the man who created Camden Market.

Eric Reynolds, of Urban Space Management, which also created Shoreditch Market, said: “We have worked with the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage to produce a planning application that enables the re-launch of the buildings as a market-based destination for independent food, creative business and cultural enterprise.”

Earlier this year the City of London gave permission to Henderson Global Investors for their £160 million plans to knock down part of the General Market building in Farringdon Street and build a seven-storey office block and shopping complex on the site.

That decision has now been called in by communities secretary Eric Pickles and will be the subject of a public inquiry in February.

Heritage groups – with the notable exception of English Heritage – have condemned the plans. They argue that its unique interior will be destroyed.

Now those heritage groups and Mr Reynolds have submitted their own plans, going “head to head” with Henderson.

Mr Reynolds added: “We will build upon the site’s position at the heart of London, its unrivalled transport connections and Farringdon’s global reputation as a destination for creative business and British food.

“The opportunity cannot be recreated in the atrium of a modern office building. The grand, top- lit Victorian market halls of the General Market building present a unique opportunity to London. Once lost they will be gone for ever.”

The Victorian Society has described the building as “perhaps the most impressive, large-scale and complete complex of market buildings in England”.

A market has operated there for 800 years. The General Market was built in 1881 but has been empty since 1999.

A host of celebrities, including writer Alan Bennett, have also spoken out against the plans and more than 2,600 people have signed a petition against it.

Islington Council has also formally objected to the plans, which are just across its border, on the grounds that the proposals “would substantially harm the General Market and the Smithfield Conservation Area” as well as  the Charterhouse Square Conservation Area and the setting of Charterhouse Street in Islington.

SAVE president Marcus Binney added: “Smithfield doesn’t need yet more offices. Hendersons are already building a huge new office development on the next-door site.”

Victorian Society director Chris Costelloe said: “Smithfield Market has a character like no other part of central London. Preserving this is a matter of national importance.

“Our viable scheme for the site would boost the local economy and give these important buildings a long-term future.”

At July’s planning hearing Geoff Harris, Henderson’s director of property management, argued that it was a “regeneration project”.

He said: “We have been developing this scheme, through consultation with the City and English Heritage, for three years.  “There will be significant restoration of the parts of the building that people see.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Campaigners submit planning application for rival Smithfield scheme

Architect Burrell Foley Fischer goes head to head with McAslan & Partners

Illustration of Smithfield General Market reopened as a market hub

The Victorian Society and Save Britain’s Heritage have submitted a full planning application for Smithfield Market in an unprecedented bid to pre-empt a planning inquiry.

Architect Burrell Foley Fischer has drawn up detailed plans for the covered market near Farringdon which was designed by Sir Horace Jones in the 19th century.

These have been submitted to the City of London Corporation by the two conservation bodies as part of a change of use application which would pave the way for a “rescue plan” designed by Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management (USM).

The application is the latest move in a campaign by the Victorian Society and Save against a scheme by John McAslan & Partners to insert six storeys of office and retail behind the Victorian facades.

This won planning in July but was called in by communities secretary Eric Pickles just two months later. The subsequent planning inquiry is due to open on February 11.

Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said: “This is exceptional. I’m not aware of the Victorian Society ever having made a planning application, and it’s quite unusual for a party that doesn’t own a site to put in a planning application.”

Burrell Foley Fischer’s Smithfield plans

The public inquiry would hinge on the viability of alternative plans that don’t involve demolition, he said, so it was necessary to demonstrate the viability of the USM scheme.

“This is one of the most important market complexes in the country and is an important part of the City of London yet the current plans would involve substantial demolition,” he added.

He described the application, which could be heard in parallel with the public inquiry, as “extremely realistic”.

“All we need is for the City of London to come to its senses and decide that rather than another office block something much more exciting could be done here. When Crossrail meets Thameslink, Farringdon is going to be the centre of London and it will need a heart. There will be massive demand for retail there.”

Clem Cecil, director of Save, said: “We are saying loud and clear that this heritage is important for London and the nation and can be protected and bring economic benefit.”

John McAslan, whose scheme was drawn up for developer Henderson Global Investors, declined to comment.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Victorian Society & SAVE submit planning application for Smithfield General Market and Annex

The alternative scheme put forward in the planning application submitted by the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage for the historic Smithfield General Market involves no demolition.  It is based on a viable and fundable business plan from Urban Space Management, who have successfully brought Camden Market, Greenwich Market, Spitalfields Market and many other markets throughout the country back into vibrant use.

In February 2014 (11th-28th) there will be a  public  inquiry into the future of Smithfield General Market and its stunning Annex building. This will determine whether Henderson Global Investors will be able to demolish most of the site and build two large office blocks.

The Public Inquiry is being fought by the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage against the GLA, the City of London and Henderson Global Investors. The Secretary of State called it in for Public Inquiry in September this year.

English Heritage, in a volte face, is supporting the Henderson scheme saying that it does not cause 'substantial harm' to the Smithfield conservation area, although EH opposed the demolition of the General Market in a previous public inquiry.

The Victorian Society/SAVE scheme, drawn up by John Burrell of Burrell, Foley, Fischer, will save the General Market and its unique interiors and handsome top-lit market halls for the nation and create a new bustling hub in the heart of London.

Smithfield General Market was built in the late 19th Century by City Surveyor Sir Horace Jones, architect of Billingsgate and Leadenhall markets and Tower Bridge.  Together with the Smithfield meat and poultry markets, the General Market makes up the grandest procession of market buildings in Europe. It is a public asset, owned by the City of London Corporation, which has let it lie empty for many years.

The Victorian Society’s Director Chris Costelloe said: “Smithfield Market has a character like no other part of central London.  Preserving this is a matter of national importance.  Our viable scheme for the site would boost the local economy and give these important buildings a long term future.  By contrast the Henderson scheme would cause substantial harm to the conservation area.  We are pleased to be standing side by side with SAVE Britain's Heritage in this campaign.”

SAVE Director Clem Cecil said  "We are delighted to be working with the Victorian Society on this planning application that is a crucial aspect of our case for the public inquiry. We are saying loud and clear that this heritage is important for London and the nation and can be protected and bring economic benefit."

Friday, 27 September 2013

Home House to woo London's tech staff with Clerkenwell club

Private members’ club Home House is planning to open a second site in Clerkenwell in the hope of signing up a new group of young Londoners.

The owners of the West End venue are due to complete a deal imminently to take over the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green, making it the latest in a long line of members’ clubs opening in and around the area.

Tech professionals have been signing up to the clubs in droves with the continued rise of Tech City just to the east, where companies including Facebook and Google are based.

With office space in the area sparse and meeting room fees rising, many in the digital sector are looking for more relaxed environments to meet contacts. It would seem that Home House hopes to cash in on the trend.

The current members’ club has been operating from its 18th century townhouse in Portman Square since it was restored in 1998.

In 2004 it was bought by a group of private investors, who took over the neighbouring building to create a more contemporary setting.

A source close to Home House said: “Bosses have always been keen to expand, but it was always a case of trying to find a building suitable to match the current club.”

Despite the recession, members’ clubs have managed to maintain fairly steady levels of membership.

Home House claimed to have avoided a drop in membership and reintroduced a waiting list, with many businessmen and women keen to use the site as an alternative venue for meetings.

The new site in Clerkenwell goes back over 1000 years and was once the largest courthouse in England.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

McAslan’s Smithfield revamp called in

John McAslan + Partners’ contentious £160 million Smithfield Market overhaul has been called in by the secretary of state

Communities secretary Eric Pickles will decide the future of the scheme after deeming the redevelopment to concern ‘matters of substantial regional and national controversy.’

The inquiry is expected to focus on the mixed-use scheme’s compliance with the local plan and NPPF policies on good design and conserving the historic environment.

McAslan’s scheme – involving partial demolition of Victorian buildings to create 5,700m² of shops and 21,220m² of office space – won planning from the City of London in July.

Almost a dozen bodies objected to the Henderson Global Investors-backed project, including the Twentieth Century Society, SPAB, Islington Council and SAVE Britain’s Heritage which submitted a petition with the names of almost 2,700 people opposed to the redevelopment.

A previous scheme for the site by KPF, which would have obliterated the existing buildings, was also approved (see AJ 06.05.2006) at planning committee before being famously thrown out by communities secretary Hazel Blears in 2008.

A spokesperson for developer Henderson said: ‘Henderson’s conservation led planning application for the largely disused buildings in West Smithfield is the only realistic, viable and funded scheme which can bring these historic buildings back into use and deliver a proper long term sustainable balance of redevelopment, restoration and retention.

‘This balanced approach has been supported by the City of London, English Heritage, the GLA and CABE as it retains the vast majority of the existing Victorian market buildings and brings them back into viable use.’

Clem Cecil of SAVE said: ‘We’re delighted, it shows the significance of the buildings that the secretary of state has decided to call it in a second time. We are delighted there will be a fair forum for the discussion.’

Cecil claimed the latest twist proved the buildings – which failed to win statutory protection from demolition because they were bombed damaged – should now be listed.

The SAVE director called on the inquiry to consider claims the City of London had overlooked the planning inspector’s 2008 recommendations in approving the McAslan scheme.

She said: ‘The inspector [in 2008] concluded the buildings could be preserved and become a new Spitalfields or Covent Garden and that they should be put on the open market to allow conservation-led scheme to come forward.

She continued: ‘The City of London never put it on the open market. [Therefore] it is unfounded to say this is the only viable scheme because no other scheme has come forward. This is why we need this fair forum.’

Friday, 30 August 2013

Public inquiry should decide on Smithfield future

From Mr Alec Forshaw

Sir, Councillor Tom Sleigh’s letter (August 10) justifying the City of London Corporation planning committee’s recent decision to allow the redevelopment of the former General Market at Smithfield makes dispiriting reading. It illustrates the poor advice that committee members are fed by their officers. Cllr Sleigh states, for example, that 75 per cent of the fabric of the General Market will be kept, but he clearly has not looked very closely at the plans, which completely gut the magnificent interior of Horace Jones’s 1880s market. He states that the City needs more offices, without realising that more than 1m sq ft of offices is already in the pipeline within a few hundred metres of Smithfield, and there are vast amounts of offices consented elsewhere in the City, which no one wants to build because the demand has collapsed (for example, The Pinnacle, 100 Bishopsgate, 60-70 St Mary Axe).

Put bluntly, the City is failing to compete with other more attractive parts of London as a location where people want to work. Office rents in the West End are at least double those in the City. King’s Cross, Waterloo and Silicon Roundabout are providing vigorous competition.

Cllr Sleigh compares the approved Henderson scheme at Smithfield to Spitalfields Market, without realising that the amount of retail and café space proposed at Smithfield is tiny, nothing like enough for it to become a destination. There is a far better alternative scheme for Smithfield, promoted by the entrepreneurs who run Borough, Spitalfields, Greenwich and Camden Lock markets. They would repair the existing historic buildings (scandalously neglected by the Corporation), convert all the space to retail/market/café/ entertainment use, and pay the City Corporation a rent of £700,000 per year. This is exactly the injection of vitality that this part of the City needs, serving existing and new office workers in the area and attracting visitors.

Sadly the City Corporation are too blinkered to know what is good for them, let alone to be trusted with the conservation of historic buildings which are of London-wide if not national interest. Boris Johnson won’t want to ruffle the City’s feathers, and will no doubt rubber-stamp the office redevelopment (as he did recently with the City Corporation’s office scheme at the Fruit and Wool Exchange in Spitalfields). The secretary of state should step in and call the public inquiry that this important decision requires.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Masons fail in Sessions House Licence bid

Clerkenwell’s Masonic Centre tonight failed in its bid for a much-extended alcohol and late-night refreshment licence.  Islington Council’s Licensing Committee decisively rejected its application.

The Masons have sold the Sessions House for £6.5M to a company controlled by a businessman who wishes to run it as an invitation-only private members’ club, with a business in private events and parties, conferences etc, to be known as “Clerkenwell House.”  It would not be a night club and there would be no dancing or instant admission.

Virtually no details of the nature or operation of this proposed Club had emerged prior to the hearing, but a brochure was passed round, not previously seen by anyone, giving the proposed “rules” of the club.

The Masons claimed that the Club would be an upmarket one, reflecting the steadily upward trend of the area, and that there would be little obvious change from the current operation of the Centre, but objectors – present in force – asked what sort of Club, conference or private hire centre would need a 67% increase in alcohol sales hours,  until 6.00am?  How intensive would the use of the building need to be to service the £6.5M purchase price, plus the stated further £4M in repair costs?  How would the rules of the Club be enforced, in particular, against private party-goers attending events in the building?  “Up-market” status was no guarantee of moderate behaviour.

Sadly, there were no answers -  because the application was being made by the Masons, who are moving out, and not by the as-yet undisclosed buyer, who, despite investing heavily in the project, had not so far consulted with anyone locally about his plans, and was not present to answer the many questions local residents had.  Why was this?  The Masons weren’t saying.

Residents stressed that they accepted that the Sessions House – as one of Clerkenwell’s landmark buildings – needed to be safeguarded by having an economic use, but not at the cost of reintroducing problems previously associated with Turnmills, Ghost, Dust and Murphi’s – some of which continue to be caused by other nearby premises.

It is not clear what the Masons will do next.  They can appeal to the Magistrates, but it seems to me that a far better course would be for the new owner to introduce himself to the community, consult widely on his proposals, and then make a new application on which he can answer the resulting questions.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Smithfield: alternative option for reviving historic London market

Plans to redevelop Smithfield could mutilate the London building - but there is an alternative

The Meat Market at Smithfield, where the General Market
 and Fish Market face redevelopment

Smithfield Market in London is the greatest parade of 19th-century covered market halls in Europe. Now a storm is breaking over the buildings at the western end - the General Market, with its distinctive dome and arched galleries, and the unusual triangular Fish Market.

Henderson Global Investors, backed by the City of London Corporation, is proposing to gut almost all these market halls and replace them with office blocks looming above preserved street frontages. This would be the worst mutilation of a major Victorian building in 30 years.

Save Britain’s Heritage, the conservation group that I founded in 1975 with Simon Jenkins, Dan Cruickshank and others, is determined the site should reopen as a retail market modelled on those at Covent Garden, Greenwich and Spitalfields.

In all these places covered markets have played a key role in revitalising areas, making them attractive places to work, shop, eat and drink. Smithfield has the potential to be a still bigger magnet, as it stands above two major rail routes: Crossrail running east-west to Heathrow, and Thames Link, which connects Gatwick and Luton airports.

National preservation groups, including the Victorian Society and World Monuments Fund, backed by celebrities such as Alan Bennett and Julian Lloyd Webber, have condemned the plans, which the City Corporation voted this month to approve.

London’s markets have a long history - Smithfield dates back to the 12th century, and Covent Garden and Spitalfields to the 17th century. Originally, stalls would have been set out in the open air but rising standards of hygiene led to covered markets. Many of these structures are triumphs of Victorian engineering. As a result, London’s historic markets have always been as enjoyable to visit for their architecture as for their produce.

Yet in the brave new world of postwar town planning there was little interest in the preservation of these buildings. London’s mighty Caledonian Market was bulldozed in the 1960s. London’s Covent Garden Market would have gone too had the Greater London Council in 1973 been allowed to push through its plans for a six-lane road parallel to the Strand, flanked by office blocks and high-rise hotels, but public outcry won the day.

Billingsgate Fish Market in 1961

Save has been campaigning for endangered historic buildings for nearly 40 years, with a focus on finding lively new uses and financially viable solutions. Thirty years ago we faced a similar challenge to the present one. In 1980 the City Corporation announced plans to move Billingsgate Fish Market, located on the river Thames near London Bridge, to the Isle of Dogs and said that the £8m cost had to be paid for by replacing the handsome Victorian market building with a new office block.

Save challenged the City Corporation and together with the then Richard Rogers Partnership, we produced an alternative scheme showing how the market could be kept for public use, and offices built on the nearby lorry park. When the City finally marketed the building on the basis of our scheme it raised £22m.

In 2000, the City Corporation invited Eric Reynolds, the market entrepreneur behind the revival of Greenwich and Spitalfields Markets, to put forward proposals for Smithfield General Market, but never pursued them.

The General Market had been built as a retail market in the 1880s and Reynolds proposed it should be revived partly as a food market on the lines of Borough Market south of the Thames. Instead, the City backed an office block proposal – selling a long lease to developers Thornfield.

At a public inquiry in 2007-8, Save and English Heritage, the Government’s adviser on historic buildings, secured the rejection of Thornfield’s plans. Ministers agreed that the General Market and Fish Market should be offered for sale on the open market before demolition was considered.

Thornfield then went into administration and, instead of being offered for sale, the market buildings were transferred with Thornfield’s assets for a consideration of £50m to AIMco Re Holdings (but ultimately controlled by FREP Holdings Canada).

English Heritage now did a curious volte-face, accepting plans by Henderson Global Investors (as agents of FREP Holdings Canada) to gut the General Market that would leave just three preserved frontages on the basis that there was no viable alternative.

Eric Reynolds is now offering to invest £28m in converting the General Market and Fish Market as public markets, with different groups of stallholders present on different days.

Working with London architect John Burrell, Save also wants to revive the former railway sidings beneath the General Market. This is an amazing netherworld, akin to the water cisterns beneath Istanbul. The idea is to create a London fashion hub to host the growing number of fashion shows in the capital.

Revived historic quarters have brought enjoyment as well as economic benefits to almost every city in Europe. A recent report by architects Allies and Morrison, with Strutt & Parker, has shown that repairs to historic buildings in high streets (including market buildings) can increase footfall by up to 6 per cent.

Map of the Smithfields Market

The whole Smithfield quarter, like Covent Garden before, has flourished by a process of natural regeneration, as independent shops and restaurants have moved into the premises of departing wholesalers.

In Covent Garden the clincher was the decision to preserve and reopen the market halls. Smithfield General Market offers the opportunity for London to lead Europe in showing how another group of market halls can be a catalyst for economic revival. But this is now an issue that can only be resolved in the forum of a public inquiry.

The playwright Alan Bennett draws a telling comparison with the great medieval church next to the market. “If you go to St Bartholomew’s and then walk through Smithfield, it is like walking from one cathedral to another. You wouldn’t pull down St Bartholomew’s, nor should you pull down Smithfield. Smithfield was the scene of many martyrdoms - this would be another.”

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Smithfield market revamp ready for Crossrail and new homes

The controversial £160 million makeover of Smithfield Market will create the City of London's hottest neighbourhood with sensational new homes ready for the 2018 opening of Crossrail, says David Spittles
  • Historic Smithfield Market is to become a new 'artisan food quarter', similar to Spitalfields and Borough
  • The £160 million makeover will restore the market's listed Victorian exterior but sweep away the interior halls, replacing them with an internal public piazza below glass-clad office blocks
  • The 2018 opening of Crossrail brings another advantage to new homes in the area with several station entrances to be built around the market
The halls of Smithfield market will become a new public piazza with food
courts, aimed at attracting crowds of Londoners and tourists, as has been
the experience at revamped Borough and Spitalfields markets

Historic Smithfield Market is set to follow the markets at Spitalfields and Borough as the Hart's Corner western end of the complex is set for a spectacular modern makeover that will bring a new “artisan” food quarter, boutiques and offices, and boost a central district that was hitherto off the radar of homebuyers and tourists.
Despite the passionate battle fought by conservation groups with big-name stars joining in, City planners have given approval for a £160 million revamp that will restore the market’s listed Victorian perimeter buildings but sweep away its market halls with their prized ironwork and vaulted roofs, replacing them with an internal public piazza below glass-clad office blocks - described as “pavilions”.
Known as Smithfield Quarter, the scheme is expected to be complete by 2018 to coincide with the opening of the neighbouring Crossrail station at Farringdon, which will be one of the capital’s key transport hubs and is due for a dramatic sevenfold increase in passengers.
The two projects are tipped to transform a commercial zone that has been part-derelict for at least a decade, yet which has been urban since the Middle Ages, with a colourful and lively history of supplying food to Londoners for 1,000 years.
Part of Smithfield Market's Victorian exterior
will survive the £160 million makeover

The run-down Victorian buildings occupy the Hart’s Corner western end of the market complex. While the battle for conservation still rages among many campaigners who oppose the changes, English Heritage is backing developer Henderson Global Investors, saying the scheme strikes “an appropriate balance between restoration and new development” and it welcomes the regeneration.
Similar controversy surrounded redevelopment of Spitalfields Market, where the offices for lawyers and bankers and a new shopping precinct dovetail with retained listed buildings. At Borough Market, now a thriving and much-visited area, a new viaduct for Thameslink trains cut through the site and entailed demolition of some original structures.

Smithfield has been supplying food to London for 1,000 years,
a tradition being reinvented by the new food quarter

But the quirky character and charm of these centuries-old sites endures through humanscale architecture, sensitive design and a mix of independent shops and stall holders. Both Borough and Spitalfields are among London’s top-10 visitor attractions and local homes have leapt in value.
Crossrail brings another dimension to Smithfield. There will be several new station entrances around the market and at least eight big mixed-use schemes are in the pipeline, including one above the listed station. An influx of office workers is likely to trigger demand for housing in an area that has been starved of new homes.
Estate agent Iain Currie was ahead of the game, opening a Thomson Currie branch in Smithfield two years ago. “There’s huge unsatisfied demand for homes in the area, and the redevelopment of the market is a big opportunity,” he says. “Smithfield is the only large wholesale market left in central London. Billingsgate and Covent Garden have moved.”
The market is surrounded by ancient St Bart’s Hospital, handsome Georgian townhouses and an open square that used to be the main site in London for the public execution of heretics and dissidents - Scottish nationalist William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered there in 1305.
The square is now lined with fashionable bars and bistros (some serving breakfasts from 4am when the market is alive with activity), while a few nightclubs offer an alternative to Soho. Lengendary club Turnmills, the first in the UK to win a 24-hour dance licence, has been bought for designer offices, a sign of the area’s changing profile. Smithfield’s boundary is part of the City’s “ring of steel” security cordon, which ensures a low crime rate.

The Green Boulevard

Architect Terry Farrell has designed a “public realm” masterplan for the area stretching from Farringdon to Tottenham Court Road, linking the two Crossrail stations with a “green boulevard”.

Sir Terry has also been commissioned by Royal Mail for the 12-acre Mount Pleasant depot, which will include a large number of homes, while Guardian Newspapers’ former headquarters in Farringdon Road is another likely residential conversion.
Analysis by Knight Frank suggests this changing City-fringe area, which includes Clerkenwell, could reach more than £1,700 a square foot by 2016, up from about £1,200 now, or at least £500,000 for a one-bedroom flat.
Spurred by Crossrail, developers are building boutique homes.  “Smithfield is no longer under the influence of Clerkenwell - it is acquiring its own identity as a proper neighbourhood and people want to put down roots,” adds Iain Currie. With its medieval bones still showing and the promise of a fresh new retail quarter, it is certainly one of the City’s hottest addresses.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Former Clerkenwell court said to be haunted sold by masons

A gruesome piece of Islington’s history – a reputedly haunted building where convict were whipped, sent to their deaths and transported to Australia – has been sold.

The Old Middlesex Sessions House in Clerkenwell Green has been the home of the Central London Masonic Centre since it purchased the building for £300,000 in 1979.

The masons are moving to a new building in Lever Street, Finsbury, but the secretive group refuses to reveal how much they have sold the building for or who they’ve sold it to – though a planning application has been put into Islington Council to turn it into a private members club.


The sale represents the latest chapter in the long and often morbid history of the former courthouse, which was built in 1780 at a cost of £13,000.

The original building held two courtrooms, dungeons and accommodation for judges – a whipping post was added outside in about 1788.

In total, the building acted as a court of law for 140 years and earned a reputation as one of the strictest in the country – in one year alone 200 convicts were transported.

Prisoners were taken from the building through tunnels in the basement to Newgate Prison, where the Old Bailey now stands, and from there down the River Fleet to transport ships on the Thames.

A complex of tunnels under the building once linked the court not just to Newgate but also Clerkenwell House of Detention, the cellars of adjacent Marx Memorial Library and The Crown and The Horseshoe pubs.

Meanwhile prisoners who were to be executed were taken round the corner to the Hangman’s Cottage in Sans Walk where portable gallows were routinely employed.

And according Alice Merino, from the Clerkenwell and Islington Guides Assocation, a legend exists of a female ghost who haunts the building - sitting on the main stairs, crying and waiting for her boyfriend, who was presumably killed or sent to a penal colony.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Smithfield office plan ‘butchery’ - Man behind Camden Market says he can save Victorian site from demolition

Plans to save the Victorian Smithfield General Markets from demolition have been published by a heritage group and the man behind Camden Markets.

Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management, which has also revitalised Spitalfields Market, and heritage group SAVE, have written to the City Corporation – the local authority for the buildings in Farringdon Street – arguing that it could be turned into a viable general market along the same lines as Covent Garden.

The market buildings in question were built between 1870 and 1890 and are part of a complex including the famous Smithfield Meat Market, which has been on the site for 800 years.

The market closed in the 1980s and has been empty ever since. In 2007 a public inquiry ruled that the General Market should not be demolished unless it was impossible to sell on the open market.

Now, however, it has been passed on by Deloitte – who came into ownership in the early 2000s after a previous property company went bust – to Henderson Global Inves­tors who have put in a planning application to knock down all but the perimeter, and build a tower block on the site.

Marcus Binney, president of SAVE, based in Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, has des­cribed the plans as the “worst mutilation of a major Victorian landmark in 30 years”.

He added that the scheme has been described as “butchery” by the Victorian Society.

In his letter to SAVE Mr Reynolds said: “We have put forward proposals showing how the General Market buildings, if retained in their present form with the internal market halls, can generate an annual income in the order of £4.8m.

“We continue to be extremely interested in acquiring and running Smithfield General Market as a retail market. We consider this can be a viable and thriving operation bringing life and added business to the area as significant as other revived markets, notably Covent Garden, Borough Markets and Spitalfields.”

Heritage group SAVE said they are working closely with Urban Space Management to bring the market back into reuse, but that English Heritage won’t look at their proposals.

English Heritage, which is supporting the Henderson scheme, says it “recognises the concerns raised by SAVE”. But the body added: “The current proposal put forward by Henderson Global Inves­tors unites long-term sustainable restoration with the reuse of the Smithfield Western Market Buildings.

“Whilst it is true that the scale and height of the new office floors will result in moderate harm to the conservation area in certain views, these proposals have the potential to deliver economic, social and heritage benefits and it is these elements which the City of London Corporation must now balance.”

It added: “Earlier this year, English Heritage staff attended an event held by SAVE to launch their alternative proposals for Smithfield Market. At no time since that launch were we invited to discuss those proposals, until after the issuing of the latest press release which claimed we had already refused an invitation.

“We regret that SAVE finds it necessary to issue misleading information. However, English Heritage is willing to discuss their proposals and has responded to last week’s invitation.”

Monday, 18 February 2013

Petition launched against McAslan's Smithfield plans

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has launched an online petition against John McAslan & Partners’ contentious plans to overhaul Smithfield Market in central London.

According to project backer Henderson Global Investors, the scheme has been submitted for planning this week following ‘ongoing consultation and work with the City [of London] and English Heritage over the last two years’ and will transform the General Market, Fish Market and Red House into offices and shops.

However, despite amendments to initial designs revealed last October (AJ 12.10.2012), SAVE insists the revised McAslan plan is still a ‘thinly veiled application for an office development with only a nod towards conservation’ which will see the demolition of a ‘remarkable group of Victorian market hall interiors.’

The conservation group is now petitioning architecture and heritage minister Ed Vaizey to step in and is also demanding that recommendations from a public inquiry four years ago into the earlier, even more controverisal KPF proposals are adherred to (AJ 07.08.2008).

SAVE director Clem Cecil said: ‘A public inquiry into the proposed demolition of the general market in 2008 came down firmly in favour of the retention of the building.

‘The Inspector ruled that the buildings should be put on the open market, before demolition was allowed. Henderson’s must not be allowed to avoid this test.’

She added: ‘Henderson is making extraordinary claims about how much of the existing fabric it intends to retain. What they are actually doing is getting rid of about 90 per cent  of what is there – it is basically a new build within a skin.’

SAVE has also commissioned an alternative plan, drawn up by John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fischer, the scheme is being billed as a viable, conservation-led alternative to the Henderson concept for the unlisted market (AJ 14.11.2012).

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Conservationists fight £160m plan to turn Smithfield into 'foodie Neal’s Yard’

A £160 million plan to turn the long-abandoned western end of Smithfield Market into a new artisan “foodie” destination for the City has been submitted to planners.

Developers want to restore the run-down Victorian buildings known as the General Market, Fish Market and Red House, which have stood derelict and threatened with demolition for at least a decade.

They hope to attract “Neal’s Yard-type” delis, butchers, bakers and cheese shops to a district currently overlooked by tourists and residents but associated with supplying food to Londoners for 1,000 years.

However, conservation campaigners have condemned the scheme — known as Smithfield Quarter — because it will also involve building office blocks up to six storeys high within the former market buildings.  They say it is a “de facto demolition” only possible because the brick structures are not listed — unlike the more famous wholesale meat market at the eastern end of the complex.

The Smithfield Quarter scheme is backed by fund management group Henderson Global Investors, which has a long lease on the buildings from the freeholder, the City of London Corporation, and says the inclusion of 170,000 square feet of office space is the only way of making it commercially viable.

The General Market perimeter would get 21 two-storey shops and restaurants with an internal public piazza beneath three office “pavilions”, with more shops and restaurants in the other buildings.

Geoff Harris, director of property development at Henderson, said: “Our proposals are a thorough and legitimate response to the challenges of putting these buildings back into proper, long-term, sustainable use.” The plans have been amended to ensure that they are more in keeping than earlier versions with the original historic design.  The proposal is likely to come before City planners this summer, with the opening in 2017.

Clementine Cecil, director of Save Britain’s Heritage, said the plan plays “fast and loose” with the history of the market buildings designed by former City surveyor Horace Jones. "We do not consider this a conservation project – it is a thinly veiled application for modern office blocks. "The interiors of this building, which was formerly an important public space, will all be removed, leaving only three sides of the original building."

The group’s “office-free” alternative involves turning the buildings back into traditional markets with basement exhibition and event space and it is considering submitting an alternative scheme to planners in the next month.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Prince Charles shocks commuters with ‘first trip on London Underground in 35 years’

The Prince of Wales travelled one stop from Farringdon to King’s Cross on the Metropolitan line with the Duchess of Cornwall as part of events marking the 150th anniversary on the Tube.

It is understood the last time the prince travelled on the Tube was in 1979, when he opened a section of the Jubilee line.

Farringdon station was chosen for the royal visit as it was the terminus of the original Metropolitan Railway that opened on January 10 1863, as part of the world’s first underground metro line.

Prince Charles was presented with a special Oyster card for the visit, even though he qualifies for free travel as a London resident aged over 60.

How does one eat that oyster? Prince Charles was given his own travel card for use on London's public transport

Charles and Camilla qualify for a Freedom Pass but they were given Oyster cards with £10 loaded onto them anyway

After finally figuring out how to use his Oyster card, Prince Charles made his way through the barriers at Farringdon Station

The Prince of Wales and Camilla spoke with long-serving London Underground staff and engineering trainees

There was plenty of space for the royal couple on the Tube train

The royal couple also spoke with engineers about the Crossrail project