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.