Monday, 10 November 2014

Herbal House: New plans for Clerkenwell building by Buckley Gray Yeoman


Buckley Gray Yeoman has been given the go-ahead for a 9,300m² mixed-use scheme in Clerkenwell, London

The project includes the refurbishment of a former print works to create offices, flats, shops and an art space.

The plans will retain and repair the existing stone detailing and brickwork and replace the glazing throughout the building, while an existing loading bay will be converted to create a triple-height sculpture gallery.

More than 5,500m² of office space will be created on the first to fourth floors.

The original building will also be extended upwards by two storeys with a steel-clad rooftop extension. Enclosing a courtyard terrace, the extension will contain five duplex apartments.

Matt Yeoman, director of BuckleyGrayYeoman said: ‘Herbal House is an exciting proposal for the heart of London’s creative district. The size of this former print works offers us the scope to create a lively and characterful focal point for the working and social life of Clerkenwell and Farringdon – an area set to be transformed by the imminent arrival of Crossrail.’

The building, named Herbal House, was originally built as a print works for the Daily Mirror in the 1920s. It sits within the Hatton Garden Conservation Area and neighbours the grade II*-listed Roman Catholic Italian Church of St Peter.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Prime Central London Freehold Property for Sale on Saffron Hill

Saffron Hill Car Park occupies a virtual island  site with prominent frontages on Saffron Hill, St Cross Street and Saffron Street.   Comprising 353 car parking spaces with 11,750 sq ft of office space, on a site area of 0.37 acres. Camden is seeking offers in excess of £3,180,000 subject to contract and exclusive of VAT.  

Investment Rationale
  • Virtual island site with three street frontages
  • Unrivalled transport connections with close proximity to Farringdon Station
  • Long let income secured against the covenant of CP CO 7 (net worth £52m)
  • Pre 1996 lease with resultant privity of contract implications
  • Future potential to increase rental value 
  • Potential to negotiate with the tenant regarding the future of the site 
  • Excellent potential redevelopment prospects subject to vacant possession  and planning


Clerkenwell & Farringdon are Central  London’s most exciting urban villages, with  the emergence of high end residential schemes, as well as being a favoured destination for companies in the creative, technology, media and fashion industries.

An established centre of culinary excellence, Clerkenwell is home to some of the best restaurants in London; St John, The Bleeding Heart, the Michelin starred Comptoir Gascon, Le Café du Marché, Smiths of Smithfield and Bird of Smithfield.

Transport links in this location are exceptional

Farringdon Station is 300 metres / 2 minutes walk. National Rail services as well as the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan tube lines run from Farringdon Station, which has been substantially upgraded.

Thameslink provides direct access by rail into Farringdon Station from the north and south. Towns with direct links include St Albans, Brighton, Wimbledon and Sevenoaks. 

Gatwick and Luton Airports can both be reached in under an hour using the direct Thameslink rail service.

Chancery Lane is also close by providing easy access to the City and the West End via the Central Line. St Pauls Underground Station is only 1.1km / 12 minutes walk.

Crossrail is due for completion in 2018, over 140 trains per hour will flow through the Farringdon interchange. Farringdon is set to become the only station in London  to offer access to all three services; Underground, Crossrail and Thameslink.

Crossrail will connect 37 stations, including Heathrow Airport and Maidenhead in the west with Canary Wharf, Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east.

Farringdon will become one of Britain’s busiest train stations, and will be a key link in bringing passengers from outer London to Midtown, The City and Canary Wharf.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Force Smithfield owners to act, government urged

Eric Pickles asked to start compulsory purchase proceedings on grounds of neglect

Save Britain’s Heritage has written to communities secretary Eric Pickles asking him to begin compulsory purchase proceedings against the owners of Smithfield Market in London.

Director Clem Cecil and president Marcus Binney say they are “dismayed” by the response to Pickles’ decision to reject Henderson’s £160 million redevelopment plans, drawn up by John McAslan & Partners, following this year’s public inquiry.

They argue that compulsory purchase is necessary because leaseholder Henderson and freeholder the City of London Corporation appear to be doing nothing to prevent the further deterioration of the Victorian buildings.

“It could be regarded as cynical when an owner does nothing,” said Cecil.

“They kept saying they love these buildings. Well let’s see them put that love into action.”

The corporation came in for strong criticism from Pickles who said in his decision notice after the public inquiry: “The deteriorated state of the buildings is, at least in part, the result of the history of deliberate neglect.”

Despite this Henderson vowed to sit on the site. Head of development Geoff Harris said at the time: “This decision will condemn these disused historic buildings to continued decay and yet further uncertainty.”

Now that the time limit for a judicial review has passed, Cecil and Binney have written to Pickles urging him to intervene.

“The building remains vulnerable as winter approaches, particularly as the roof over the canopy across the street has been removed,” they said.

“We consider that an initial letter from you stating an intention to do this would have a salutary effect and might prompt action and decisions which otherwise may take months or years to achieve.”

They point out that they have a viable alternative scheme backed by developer Cathedral Group, market entrepreneur Eric Reynolds and architect John Burrell.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Developer may 'sit on' Smithfield site

The future of Smithfield market is in doubt after it emerged that Henderson’s lease on the buildings does not expire until 2020 and that the developer may decide to hold on to the site until then.

The developer, whose redevelopment of the site was rejected by the secretary of state yesterday, also has a 999-year lease on the basement, putting it in a strong position to carry out its threat to leave the site in Farringdon empty.

It currently rents out the basement to Crossrail, which uses it as part of the neighbouring construction site, and BD understands this brings in enough money to cover its costs.

But president of campaign group Save, Marcus Binney, accused Henderson of having a “real sulky dog attitude” and threatened to get a repairs order served on them.

“It’s a very unfriendly thing to do to London which shouldn’t have boarded-up sites looking little better than bombsites just because people won’t use or relinquish buildings.

“It’s been through the entire planning system and a public inquiry and the inspector ruled that there had been deliberate neglect.

“This is not a responsible way to deal with a heritage asset and if necessary we’ll press for a repairs order to be served on them.”

Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Sociey, said he was hopeful that “reason and rationality will win” and that Henderson would choose to dispose of the site.

Yesterday Henderson and its architect John McAslan & Partners unexpectedly lost a public inquiry after communities secretary Eric Pickles ruled that their £160m proposals were “wholly unacceptable”.

The minister agreed with the inspector’s conclusion that there was “no pressing need for offices in this particular location sufficient to justify such a harmful intervention”.

Geoff Harris, head of development at TIAA Henderson, accused its opponents of running a “disingenuous campaign” and said the McAslan scheme was backed by English Heritage, Cabe, the City of London, the mayor and Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association.

“Our scheme would have saved and brought back to life these Victorian market buildings that have lain empty for decades,” he said. “This decision will condemn these disused historic buildings to continued decay and yet further uncertainty.”

A source close to the developer said Henderson rejected the inspector’s report outright, along with its contention that a rival proposal put to the inquiry by developer Cathedral, architect Burrell Foley Fischer and market entrepreneur Eric Reynolds was “possible, viable and deliverable”.

Henderson’s view is that there is no credible alternative and that the best thing for its shareholders would be to sit on the site and draw a rental income, said the source.

Costelloe said six years was “quite a lot of crumbling time” but pointed out that the lease obliged Henderson to maintain the buildings.

“I can understand they are feeling a little sore but it’s in no one’s interest that this site lies empty,” he said.

“They are a major developer and I don’t think they are going to act spitefully. It wouldn’t do their reputation or their balance sheet any good.

“Much better to put it on the market and allow a conservation-led scheme to emerge that would reanimate the area.”

Friday, 11 July 2014

Smithfield victory sparks ‘bring back the market’ appeal from heritage campaigners

Heritage campaigners have called for a historic market in Smithfield to be opened up as soon as possible following a surprise decision by the government to block a multi-million pound office development which would have seen it partly demolished.

Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles resoundingly rejected the £160m plans by Henderson Global Investors to knock down part of the historic General Market and nearby Fish Market in Farringdon Street and to build a seven-storey office block and shopping complex on the site.

In doing so he backed an alternative regeneration scheme by the founder of Camden and Spitalfields markets, Eric Reynolds, who put forward proposals to turn it into a Covent Garden-style market.

Mr Reynolds has now urged Henderson to “pick up the phone” and talk to him about setting up a deal.

It is the second time in less than 10 years that an office development has been blocked on the site by the Secretary of State, meaning the “game is pretty much up” for that type of scheme.

Henderson has a lease on the building until 2020. It is currently used by Crossrail to store equipment while it rebuilds Farringdon station.

But it is expected to vacate the market by the end of next year. Mr Reynolds said the building should be made available as soon as possible after that.

In a statement he called for the buildings to be brought into suitable public use as soon as practically possible. “The best way to preserve historic buildings is to keep them in use,” he said. “Crossrail could be ready to move out in a year or so and the re-use project should be prepared to open the doors immediately after the space is clear.”

He added to the Tribune: “Henderson are not a fly-by-night company. We have written to them before about our scheme, but have not heard anything.

“But the belief in the architectural circles now is that the game is up for Smithfield. Mr Pickles’ judgment was very strongly and carefully worded, closing up all the potential loopholes.

“There is a brand new station which will bring thousands of people next to the market. We have a planning application in with the City of London. We hope they will determine this as soon as possible.”

In his strongly worded statement Mr Pickles criticised the City of London Corporation, which owns the building, saying: “The deteriorated state of the building is, at least in part, the result of the history of deliberate neglect.”

Mr Reynold’s call was backed by campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which had battled against the office plans.

A spokesman said that the nearby Fish Market is empty and could be used immediately.

Henderson has the right to appeal against Mr Pickles’ decision. It did not respond to requests yesterday for comment.

A spokesman for the City of London – which granted planning permission to Henderson last year – said any new scheme would have to go through the planning process.

Mr Pickles, who had “called in” the decision, described the plan as “wholly unacceptable” on Tuesday. He said: “The extent of damage the application would cause to the important heritage asset of Smithfield runs entirely counter to national and policy objectives intended to protect such assets from harm.”

He added that Mr Reynold’s scheme was “viable and deliverable” and could “secure a long-term future for the buildings”.

SAVE described the victory as “ resounding”. Marcus Binney, SAVE executive president, said: “Our energies will now focus on implementing a scheme on the lines proposed.”

Thursday, 10 July 2014

What next for Smithfield?

Before asking “what now?”, it’s worth asking “what happened?” — if only to absorb the lessons from the most bitter planning battle fought in the City since Gerald Ronson won permission to build the Heron Tower.

Veuve Clicquot champagne poured into commonplace wine glasses greeted preservationists gathered for an impromptu party on a roof terrace overlooking Smithfield market on Tuesday evening. SAVE Britain’s Heritage was celebrating a government decision to reject plans by fund manager TIAA Henderson to insert a 118-foot-high block containing 138,000 square feet of offices and shops into Victorian buildings at the western end of the market.

A long-running battle won. Cheers! Before asking “what now?”, it’s worth asking “what happened?” — if only to absorb the lessons from the most bitter planning battle fought in the City since Gerald Ronson won permission to build the Heron Tower in July 2002.

This particular fight began in 2008, with the killing of plans to flatten the General Market building fronting Farringdon Road, and replaced it with a giant office block.

It’s facile to wholly blame Henderson, except perhaps for its insulting response to the decision by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to dismiss its scheme as “wholly unacceptable”.

Pickles was “influenced by a disingenuous campaign employed by a small minority of objectors”, said Henderson. Otherwise, the fund manager did its best, employing fine architect John McAslan. But the development appraisal spreadsheet must rule.

Henderson’s mistake was to let itself be led by two blameworthy players. The City of London is the freeholder. Its refusal to come up with a vision for the area while simply letting the buildings rot is inexplicable. English Heritage? Britain’s preservation body lost its virginity, after great pressure, accepting the dangerous argument that it was not “commercially viable” to preserve the buildings intact. Nor was it at Covent Garden.

The City, like Henderson, is licking its wounds and barking. Not quite as loudly as the fund manager. The decision was “deeply disappointing for the developer”, said Mark Boleat, chairman of the City policy committee. “We felt that the new building offered a sensitive redevelopment.” Note the past tense. The preservations are not above barking either. There are threats of slapping a “repair order” on the City.

But the mood at the party was otherwise upbeat. One of the UK’s  biggest property companies, Development Securities, now owns the Cathedral Group.

Cathedral has long argued a commercially viable scheme that retains the buildings is viable. “Put the buildings on the market,” is the cry. The war can now go two ways. More battles between the City and SAVE. Or, peace talks, Perhaps over a proper-shaped glass of something fizzy?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Thank God, Smithfield Market is saved!

Can it be true? Beauty has defeated Mammon in the heart of the City of London.

The sainted Eric Pickles has just chucked out the grotesque developers' scheme that would have seen the greatest parade of market buildings in Britain ruined by offices. A great chunk of  steel and glass was going to be shoved through the carefully-considered, flowing lines of the elegant Victorian complex.

SAVE, the buildings heritage group, were heroic in fighting the proposal when things looked really bleak. Their scheme – to turn the market into a series of sensitive shops and restaurants, while respecting the Victorian structure – is wise; the foundation of a new Covent Garden, a reinvigoration of an ancient, beautiful quarter of London.

Is it too much to hope for that, after years of destroying London, government is finally joining the people in realising how much we love old buildings?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

McAslan's Smithfield plans kicked out by Pickles

Communities secretary accuses City Corporation of ‘deliberate neglect’ over buildings’ condition

The communities secretary has rejected John McAslan & Partners’ £160 million proposal to fill Smithfield Market in London with shops and offices and accused the buildings’ owners of not looking after them properly.

Eric Pickles made the shock announcement today following a public inquiry into the scheme which was developed by Henderson Global Investors.

In a strongly worded statement, he said the proposals would have “an extremely harmful effect” on the historic buildings which “runs entirely counter to national and policy objectives intended to protect such assets from harm”.

And he singled out the City of London Corporation, who own the buildings, for criticism.

“The deteriorated state of the buildings is, at least in part, the result of the history of deliberate neglect and that, in assessing the planning balance, less weight should therefore be given to the current condition of the buildings and the consequent benefit of their repair,” he said.

The decision was hailed as a major victory by Save and the Victorian Society who fought the proposal, arguing that it would do too much damage to the historic fabric of Horace Jones’ market buildings in Farringdon.

Together with Cathedral Group and market entrepreneur Eric Reynolds they argued there was a viable alternative which could bring the crumbling buildings back into use as a market ready to take advantage of the arrival of Crossrail.

It is one of the highest-profile schemes rejected by Pickles who waved through Squire & Partners’ Shell Centre plans and David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House, drawing criticism from conservationists.

Pickles said the buildings involved in the Smithfield scheme, while not listed, were “heritage assets which contributed strongly to the distinctive character of the Smithfield Conservation Area”.

And he added “that the extent of damage that the application would cause to the important heritage assets at Smithfield runs entirely counter to national and policy objectives intended to protect such assets from harm and that this would seriously undermine any economic, social or environmental benefits otherwise arising from the development, such that the proposal would not represent sustainable development”.

While the restored street elevations would enhance the conservation area, he agreed with the inspector that “the other element of the proposed works would have an extremely harmful effect on the significance of the general market as an important non-designated heritage asset”.

Martyn Evans of Cathedral and Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, were among those who welcomed the news.

Costelloe, who was also the society’s advocate at the public inquiry, said he was particularly pleased that the decision “confirms the principle that owners and developers should not be rewarded for neglecting historic buildings”.

Save caseworker Mike Fox said they were “utterly delighted”. “This is a great victory for heritage and conservation, and certainly one of Save’s greatest saves to date,” he added.

Geoff Harris, head of development at TIAA Henderson, said they were “surprised and extremely disappointed” and warned: “this decision will condemn these disused historic buildings to continued decay and yet further uncertainty.”

It is the second time redevelopment plans for Smithfield have been thrown out at a public inquiry. In 2008 the then communities secretary Hazel Blears rejected KPF’s plans for total demolition.

Smithfield market saved from partial demolition

London’s historic Smithfield Market has been protected from partial demolition after the government ruled against a development plan.

The communities secretary Eric Pickles on Tuesday turned down a £160m proposal by property investor TIAA Henderson Real Estate to convert the derelict Victorian general market and fish market buildings into shops, cafés, bars and an office block.

The plans involved demolishing the roof of the general market hall and some other structures on the site, although the developer said 70 per cent of the fabric would have been preserved.
Minister for planning Nick Boles said the benefits of the scheme “were not enough to outweigh the potential harm to an area of such historic value”.

The case was the most controversial planning decision in the City of London since the battle over tall towers such as the Gherkin, a decade ago.

The development was backed by one of Canada’s largest pension funds, Alberta Investment Management Corporation, but opposed by campaigning charities the Victorian Society and Save Britain’s Heritage.

The campaigners, working with property regeneration company Cathedral, have proposed an alternative development, which would keep the buildings intact and convert them into shopping areas like those at Camden and Spitalfields markets.

However, TIAA Henderson has refused to step aside, and has in the past vowed to leave the buildings derelict if it loses the inquiry – a threat the campaigners have called emotional blackmail.
In a letter setting out the rationale for his decision, Mr Pickles said the alternative proposal “would be possible, viable and deliverable”. He also criticised the City of London Corporation for failing to prevent the buildings from decaying.

Geoff Harris, head of development at TIAA Henderson, said Mr Pickles had been “influenced by a disingenuous campaign employed by a small minority of objectors”.

TIAA Henderson’s plans were backed by English Heritage, the City of London Corporation’s planning department, London mayor Boris Johnson 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,” Mr Harris said.

The City Corporation owns the buildings and TIAA Henderson owns a vast basement underneath, with an option to buy the buildings if its scheme were approved. Having failed in this goal, the buildings will remain in the hands of the Corporation.

Mark Boleat, policy chairman at the Corporation, said the decision was “deeply disappointing for the developer, who has put in so much work”.

“When approving the planning permission for the Smithfield site, we felt that the new building offered a sensitive redevelopment.”

Henderson has in the past said it would use the basement as a car park if its plan was not approved.

Mr Pickles’ decision represents the second failed attempt to redevelop the western end of Smithfield.

In 2008, Thornfield Properties lost a planning inquiry over proposals to demolish the general market building entirely and replace it with a large office block.

Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said: “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.”

Friday, 14 February 2014

As public inquiry begins, campaigners dismiss developer’s ‘blackmail’ threat and insist plans will ‘mutilate’ historic Smithfield Market

Campaigners fighting to save Smithfield Market from a controversial £160m redevelopment scheme have dismissed claims of “blackmail” after developers kicked off the 12-day inquiry by appearing to threaten to leave it derelict if plans are rejected.

International fund management giant Henderson Global and opposition, Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, went head to head at the Guildhall on Monday over the latest instalment in a decade of fighting over the use of the disused general and fish market in Farringdon.

The hearing began with a heated row over whether Save could introduce last-minute evidence from Cathedral, a rival developer whose own report carried out on the site argues in favour of keeping all of the Victorian architecture, designed by Horace Jones in the mid 19th century, which has stood largely empty since 1999.

Christopher Katkowski QC, who represents Henderson, which acquired the property in 2010, called the request “a contempt for the rules” that was “unacceptable”.

Although Inspector Colin Ball ruled out introducing the evidence, he agreed they could stand as a third party.

But it was further questioning that led to the project’s architect John McAslan, who proposes keeping 75 per cent of the building but demolishing the covered market, walking out over questioning by Save’s solicitor David Cooper about his hiring of a former English Heritage director, Paddy Pugh.

Mr McAslan stormed off on Monday saying the line of questioning was “offensive”, returning a minute later to receive an apology from Mr Cooper.

In his personal statement to the inquiry Mr McAslan had said that: “A refusal of planning permission would condemn the buildings and the conservation area to further... decay and vacancy.”

It followed a comment made by Geoff Harris, director of property development at Henderson, who told the Financial Times: “If we lose, it will stay as it is.”

But in Save’s opening statement, solicitor David Cooper said on Monday that “Henderson’s threat of letting the building continuing to decay is rid­iculous and I am sure they do not really mean it.”

Eric Reynolds,  founder of Camden Market, has put forward a scheme to turn the building into a working market. He will give evidence next week.

Mr Cooper added: “We have had this all before with Covent Garden and Billingsgate and Spitalfields and they are all back in use, making a nonsense of these assertions.

"Let us be clear, we are producing a viable scheme that can be funded and delivered without there being any material alterations to the historic market hall and the roof.

“Henderson has made no discernible effort to produce any such scheme. The Henderson scheme will mutilate the buildings to such an extent that it would cause substantial harm and any benefits will be far outweighed by the damage caused.”

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Society told the Tribune: “Concerning the ‘blackmail’... the Victorian Society’s point is simply that we often hear it said – as here – that if planning permission for a scheme is not granted, the building will remain unused and become a scar on the environment. In practice we find that in fact financial imperatives mean that a new use is soon found for the building.”

On Monday, representatives for Save repeatedly made the point that the building had not been offered on the open market – which would be a true test of its “viability.”

Henderson claim that the development, which has been approved by London Mayor Boris Johnson, would fulfil requirements for employment in an area identified for “intensification” with such close proximity to the impending Crossrail.

The inquiry was called for by communities secretary Eric Pickles in September last year and continues next week.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Smithfield plan not driven by profit, says McAslan

Architect gives evidence during public inquiry into £160m development

John McAslan has denied his £160 million Smithfield redevelopment was designed to cram in as much office space as his client “could get away with”.

The architect, giving evidence at the public inquiry into the scheme, said he would have refused a brief that demanded the demolition of the historic market, as envisaged in a previous plan by KPF.

Instead he stressed how much original fabric was retained by his practice’s proposal and said it reached “the right balance” between restoration and viability.

McAslan, who later briefly walked out of the inquiry, was being cross-examined by David Cooper, solicitor for Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, which object to the architect’s plans.

Cooper asked McAslan: “If there’s a conflict between the wish of [the developer] Henderson to make more profits you will go along with your paymaster’s desire to have as many offices as they can get away with.” McAslan replied: “Absolutely not.”

He said he was guided in part by intuition. “As an architect you usually have a sense, and I think I have a heightened sense, of what may or may not work on projects,” he added.

Far from overshadowing the market, the stepped retail and office “pavilions” would “celebrate the retained elements”.

He said Foster & Partners’ 2005 offices at Spitalfields market were a “far less elegantly” realised version of the one he has proposed for Smithfield.

Henderson’s barrister, Christopher Katkowski, said the conservationists’ “campaigning hyperbole” suggesting the market would be “swept away” was quite wrong.

“If these well thought-through proposals are turned down, and you returned to look around in a few years’ time, one thing’s for sure,” he said. “You won’t find yourself enjoying the delights of an artisan market in wonderfully restored Victorian buildings. For this notion, however well-meaning and however beguiling, is nonetheless to move into the realms of fantasy.”

Does Smithfield need a Royal hand?

On February 11, a 12-day public inquiry will open in Guildhall in the City to determine the latest attempt in a decade-long fight to redevelop the mouldering Victorian buildings at the western end of Smithfield market — this time by insetting a hefty office block behind the red-brick façades.

The plans drawn up by architect John McAslan over three-and-a-half years and revealed in March 2012, have been reluctantly accepted by English Heritage as the only “financially viable”’ solution.  But Save Britain’s Heritage remains adamantly opposed to the scheme, which is being promoted by fund manager Henderson.

The small conservationist body now despises big brother English Heritage for selling its soul to Mammon,  by conceding money has influenced its decision.

Save has come up with an alternative plan — one it says works financially at least for the operator if not for the owner, the City Corporation. Eric Reynolds runs several high-profile markets in London. He has pledged to spend £27 million refurbishing the Smithfield buildings, and to pay £700,000 a year in rent to the City. On Monday night, he told a large audience of preservationists that he was “really confident” his plans can work.

Henderson is not. In a pre-inquiry strike on Monday, the fund manager leaked a report from Knight Frank, dissing Save’s notion of turning the buildings into a western version of Leadenhall market. They say Reynolds faces a loss of precisely £19,742,560 on his figures.

Time for Save to call for someone who is above arguing about money? In 2004, Prince Charles helped dis a scheme proposing total demolition. “The Prince of Wales is keen to ensure that Smithfield market is saved”, said Clarence House at the time. Time for the Prince to remember his pledge?

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

John McAslan storms out of Smithfield inquiry

Solicitor apologises for upsetting architect with suggestion of ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Architect John McAslan dramatically walked out of the Smithfield public inquiry on its opening day after taking offence at a line of questioning.

According to Building’s sister title Building Design, he was being cross-examined about his practice hiring a former English Heritage (EH) director, Paddy Pugh, last year.

English Heritage has backed McAslan’s plans for the redevelopment.

At yesterday’s public inquiry David Cooper, solicitor for Save Britain’s Heritage, which was previously an ally of EH but is contesting the scheme, questioned McAslan about the timing of Pugh’s appointment.

McAslan said: “How is that relevant to the previous question?”

Cooper said it might have meant McAslan knew what English Heritage considered an appropriate height for any development at the market.

But McAslan said: “I really find that offensive, the way you have tried to connect these two incidents, which you obviously did, and the inspector has told you it’s not relevant.

“I really do take exception. I want it to be noted that I take offence at that.

“One of the key things at our practice is the ethos and integrity of the way we work. The only thing that makes me very cross is where there are suggestions, as you have made, that there’s any sense of inappropriate behaviour.”

Then he walked out explaining he was “going to stop for a moment”, leaving the inspector asking the developer’s QC, Christopher Katkowski: “Can you tell me what’s happening?” McAslan returned around a minute later and received an apology from Cooper.

Katkowski said McAslan was “upset” by the questioning and had “taken to heart” a line in Cooper’s opening statement earlier the same day.

This said: “English Heritage has a lot to account for at this inquiry and for their role in this scheme. They have completely changed their position, even though the fundamentals of the two schemes are the same… Paddy Pugh, who was in charge of English Heritage London South East at the last inquiry, now works for John McAslan, the architect, and took part in a recent site visit. He is not giving evidence and one might well ask why. English Heritage’s position is completely inconsistent – the fundamentals are the same as at the previous inquiry.”

The previous inquiry, in 2008, was into a scheme by KPF for a different developer which would have demolished the market. At that inquiry English Heritage and Save were allies, both giving evidence against the proposal which was ultimately thrown out by the secretary of state.

Then English Heritage’s barrister said EH’s London planning and conservation director had also been upset by the statement.

“That irritated Dr [Nigel] Barker but if we are having it clarified that absolutely no inference was being made, that will defuse the situation,” he said.

Cooper confirmed: “There’s no challenge to Mr Pugh’s integrity or anyone’s integrity.”

The inquiry is due to last eight days and finish at the end of next week.

London Preservationists Assail Henderson’s Smithfield Plan

Opponents of Henderson Global Investors Ltd. (HGL)’s proposed 160 million-pound ($265 million) renovation of part of Smithfield Market in the City of London say that the plan damages a historic treasure.

The Victorian Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage are presenting arguments for the preservation of the Victorian structure at a public inquiry, the groups said in a statement. The Victorian Society also said it has submitted an application to English Heritage asking for the structures be listed for historic preservation.

Henderson won local-government approval in July to redevelop part of the market into 16,260 square meters (175,000 square feet) of offices and 5,570 square meters of shops. The U.K. government has the power to demand further review of large developments, even after they receive planning approval from local government. It decided to reconsider Henderson’s plans in September and a decision on the project will be made following a public hearing.

“This is an innovative and ingenious structure, based on the modular structural system,” Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society said in a statement. “Its interior is also a magnificent space that very few Londoners have been able to see for many years.”

Henderson is seeking to benefit from the construction of the Crossrail high-speed subway line connecting London’s east and west. Farringdon, where the market is based, will become one of Britain’s busiest train stations when the rail line opens, according to Crossrail.

Livestock History

Smithfield’s market is more than 140 years old and it’s been the site of livestock transactions for more than 800 years, according to its web site. Henderson’s project will sit beside the meat and poultry markets.

Cathedral Group Plc, a London-based developer, said on Feb. 10 it would submit evidence to the inquiry supporting protection of the market.

The Victorian society decided to apply to list the building as a historically protected site after concluding that previous listing applications were flawed, according to the statement.

The listing application “can only be described as yet another desperate and last-minute publicity stunt ahead of the public inquiry,” Geoff Harris, development director at Henderson, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Applications to protect the buildings “were made and rejected in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005,” and the groups have provided “no significant new evidence to warrant consideration or listing” Harris said.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Public inquiry into £160 million scheme for Smithfield Market begins

The proposed development of London's Smithfield Market will face extended scrutiny as a public inquiry opens

Smithfield Market was built by Sir Horace Jones

The public inquiry into the proposed £160 million of Smithfield Market, a Victorian site in the City of London, is being contested by the Victorian Society, who call the demolition of part of the building “brutal”, and Henderson Global Investors, who say their plans to create shops and offices are backed by a majority of the public.

Secretary of State Eric Pickles called the application in last year following a petition and vociferous campaign by the Society and Save Britain’s Heritage. Representatives from both sides, including experts from architects John McAslan, will give evidence until February 28.

Chris Costelloe, the Director of the Society, called on English Heritage to list the General Market and Fish Market.

"We consider that the engineering importance of the market hall of the General Market, due to be demolished under current plans, has not been adequately addressed,” he said.

“This is an innovative and ingenious structure, based on the modular structural system pioneered by the Crystal Palace.

“Its interior is also a magnificent space that very few Londoners have been able to see for many years.”

A YouGov poll of more than 1,100 Londoners, commissioned by Henderson, suggested that 56 percent of those questioned believed the scheme would improve the area, compared to only nine percent who felt the opposite.

“These results show that Londoners support our scheme, which will save and bring back to life Victorian market buildings that have lain empty for decades,” Geoff Harris, the director of Property Development at the company, told the Architects’ Journal.

“There is no realistic alternative to Smithfield Quarter and if our scheme does not get approved then these disused historic buildings will continue to decay, leaving the site blighted by further uncertainty.”

Save and the Victorian Society have suggested an alternative proposal which they say would turn the market into a “bustling hub” without the need for demolition, while English Heritage say Henderson’s plan would allow “long-term restoration”.

Simon Jenkins: We mustn’t allow greedy developers to kill Smithfield

Sympathetic redevelopment of the site of London’s ancient meat market could be a fantastic asset for us all

Looming threat: part of the Henderson Global scheme to regenerate Smithfield Market

This is the last big one. Westminster has Covent Garden, Tower Hamlets has Spitalfields, Southwark has Borough. The City of London has only Smithfield market to bank on — but for how long?

A public inquiry opens at Guildhall today into whether a sizeable chunk of Smithfield market, the part no longer used for selling meat, should be redeveloped, primarily for offices. It is the last chance to see if the City can set aside short-term commercialism and embrace a “Covent Garden” of its own.

Most of London’s ancient markets have slid either to the suburbs or into oblivion, but a few have been born again, exuded magnetism as neighbourhoods of character and public resort. In such cases their appeal has been phenomenal. Even poor, battered Borough has recently emerged as an Aladdin’s cave of gastronomic delight.

There can be no argument. The key to the revival of these places lies in keeping their old market buildings and linked spaces. Wherever they have been demolished, attempts to recapture lost appeal fail, most spectacularly at Paris’s Les Halles. The magic lies in the stones.

At the centre of Smithfield stands the old meat market, soldiering on where the old slaughterhouses stood, to which live cattle were once driven down the Fleet Ditch, now Farringdon Road. I assume one day this will close and follow Covent Garden (fruit and vegetables) and Billingsgate (fish) to Battersea and the docks respectively.

Meanwhile half the old market lies derelict on the slope down to the line of the Fleet. Its buildings, including a magnificent glass-roofed interior, were designed by Sir Horace Jones of Tower Bridge fame. For 15 years they have been left empty and decaying by the City of London, in the hope of one day demolishing them for offices.

It is hard to imagine a more crucial London site. To the south lies St Bartholomew’s church and hospital, to the east the enclave of the Charterhouse, to the north the slowly reviving neighbourhood of Clerkenwell. The area could go the way of much of the new city centre, to office slabs and plutoflats. Or it could become a truly new Covent Garden. This is the last quarter of the city still to await its fate in death or glory.

The scheme before the Smithfield inquiry is the work of developer Henderson Global. It retains most of the Jones façades on its perimeter but the stately 23,000 sq ft interior is to be gutted and replaced by offices and a food hall. The site will be “scooped out” and filled with modern boxes while the retained street façades encircle them as if a film set.

Conservationists led by SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society have countered with a rival proposal from the market developer Eric Reynolds. This retains the lofty iron columns and glass roof, as with Reynolds’s successful Spitalfields renewal. Henderson retorts that this scheme is “not economically viable” — it has hired consultants Knight Frank to prove it — and is “a stunt”. Reynolds bitterly disagrees. Battle royal is joined.

I vividly recall the rescue of old Covent Garden from demolition in the 1970s. The arguments were identical. The then Greater London Council was adamant that the area had to go. Quantity surveyors were retained at large fees to declare the area between Holborn and Charing Cross “life-expired”. Traffic engineers said that Maiden Lane had to go and the Strand become a dual carriageway, or “gridlock” would ensue.

It all proved self-serving garbage. The saving of Covent Garden from going the way of London Wall and the Barbican was a victory for conservation and, eventually, for creative town planning. The multiple uses in a jumbled streetscape of market buildings, factories, warehouses and tenements played a major part in London’s emergence as the most dynamic European capital.

This was achieved in the teeth of the same lobbying, and the same arguments, now being deployed by Henderson and the City Corporation at Smithfield. We were told that conserving Covent Garden was uneconomic and that office blocks were the future. The plans were stopped just in time, though an early fragment was completed at the top west side of Drury Lane.

Needless to add, Covent Garden is today boasted as a jewel in London’s crown by the same city fathers whose predecessors tried to destroy it. It is among the most profitable areas of retail real estate in Europe. Likewise the preserved section of Old Spitalfields Market, one block of which was recently sold for £100 million.

These are the ghosts of the past with which the Smithfield inquiry must wrestle. Future cities derive their prosperity from their human appeal, not from office towers or luxury flats. People come to a city to live and work because of its magnetism, a magnetism that depends not on demolition, clearance and rebuilding but on the steady evolution in the uses to which old buildings are put. Witness Paris’s Rive Gauche or New York’s Greenwich Village.

Such neighbourhoods are killed by commercial monoculture, where the developers’ concern is not long-term profit but short-term gain. The current inquiry scheme may be an advance on a previous Smithfield proposal by KPF, a building so awful that even Hazel Blears turned it down. But we are not there yet.

This is a major London decision. The inquiry should go walkabout in markets elsewhere in the metropolis and abroad. The Smithfield site has been a derelict scandal for too long to waste on a second-rate scheme. The inquiry should give Reynolds his head and the City its soul. It should bring Covent Garden to the banks of the Fleet.

Bid to list Smithfield Market lodged

Move comes as inquiry into John McAslan plan opens

Conservationists trying to stop the redevelopment of Smithfield Market have put in an audacious application to have the buildings listed.

The request by the Victorian Society and Save Britain’s Heritage was made less than 24 hours before today’s public inquiry was due to open.

Ironically, listing applications must be submitted to English Heritage, which has come out against the two bodies and in support of the scheme by John McAslan & Partners.

EH’s director of planning and conservation in London, Nigel Barker, is due to give evidence at the inquiry for developer Henderson Global Investors.

The application is for the General Market and the Fish Market. The 1960s Poultry Market by TP Bennett already has grade II protection.

The Meat Market – which is not part of Henderson’s application and is still in daily use – is grade II* listed.

Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said they realised there was a “strong case” for listing while preparing for the inquiry, which opens at the Guildhall in the City of London this morning.

Previous listing assessments were flawed, he claimed, citing the unaddressed importance of the engineering in the General Market’s hall, which is due to be demolished under current plans.

Save director Clem Cecil said Horace Jones’s phoenix columns, imported from America, were also crucial to the application. Very few buildings remain in the UK containing the lightweight wrought-iron columns which allowed longer distances to be spanned.

Costelloe said: “English Heritage researchers have stated that the General Market ‘is a building of substantial engineering interest’, an assessment we share.

“Its interior is also a magnificent space that very few Londoners have been able to see for many years. We hope that English Heritage will now take this opportunity to give the General Market and Fish Market the protection that they deserve.”

Geoff Harris, development Director at Henderson, said: “This can only be described as yet another desperate and last-minute publicity stunt ahead of the public inquiry.

“Applications to list the buildings were made and rejected in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005.  As stated by Save and the Victorian Society themselves in their listing applications dated February 2014, ‘no notable new information has since emerged about the buildings’. There is therefore no significant new evidence to warrant consideration or listing.”

Monday, 10 February 2014

Henderson counts cost of battle for Smithfield

A once-in-a-decade planning battle has erupted in the City of London that is pitting two small but influential conservation groups against a British developer and one of Canada’s largest pension funds.

Henderson Global Investors’ proposal to redevelop the derelict western side of London’s historic Smithfield Market will be tested in the arena of a public inquiry, starting on Tuesday.

The case will be the most controversial development decision since the battles over tall towers in the City a decade ago.

Henderson’s plan restores Smithfield’s derelict Victorian general market building into shops, cafés and bars but would see the historic market hall’s roof replaced with an office block of between two and six storeys.

Site freeholder the City of London Corporation supports the proposal, as do the local and citywide planning authorities, the Smithfield meat traders’ association and government conservation adviser English Heritage.
Against them are ranged Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society.

Henderson is a FTSE 250-listed fund manager with £12.7bn of property assets under management – some 18 per cent of its total portfolio. It operates globally and has a roughly 50/50 split between institutional and retail investors.

Backed on this project by Canadian pension fund Alberta Investment Management Corporation, their position is regarded with sympathy and some surprise by fellow developers; many did not believe the scheme would face an inquiry.

But others in the property industry are not so surprised. One senior figure who did not want to be named said the partial loss of the historic structure was unnecessary: “It is difficult to accept that a more sensitive scheme cannot make a positive return.”

Marcus Binney, chairman of Save Britain’s Heritage, says Henderson’s scheme is “needlessly destructive and very inappropriate”.

“This is about whether the City of London becomes only devoted to office blocks and financial services or whether other activities can survive in the heart of our nation’s capital,” he said.

Henderson director of property development Geoff Harris counters: “Property development is about vision and to a degree pragmatism. This is a very sad bit of real estate at the moment, these buildings need to play a part in the regeneration of the area.”

Henderson acquired the site for an undisclosed sum when previous owner Thornfield Properties slid into administration in 2010, two years after losing a planning inquiry for an earlier, much more brutal concept. That plan would have replaced the Victorian market with a hulking office block. The latest plans keep three-quarters of the historic fabric, according to Henderson.

But that is not how many of the general public see it. At one Save meeting an audience member won murmurs of approval by describing the developer as “these horrors, Henderson”. Various media outlets have covered the story in a similar tone.

The company did not expect the case to reach a public inquiry, Mr Harris says. It has already spent £3m on the initial planning application, and then at least £1.6m on the public inquiry process, according to sources familiar with the matter. Thornfield spent similar sums, according to those with knowledge of the case.

Henderson has also spent around £4m on shoring up railway tunnel arches that run underneath the site, which are the responsibility of the City of London Corporation.

Henderson estimates the eventual value of its finished scheme to be £160m.
Many of those helping Save are acting for free, but they still estimate their costs in this case to be “tens of thousands” of pounds.

Ultimately secretary of state Eric Pickles must choose whether to accept or reject the planning inspector’s recommendation. Does Henderson’s proposal generate sufficient economic and social benefit to offset the loss of some parts of the historic building?

Save contends that the buildings should remain intact and be converted into artsy shopping spaces along the lines of Camden and Spitalfields markets.

Henderson – and a report it commissioned from estate agent Knight Frank – say Save’s alternative proposal is too costly to be viable; Save says Henderson should sell the building on to a different developer who would preserve it intact.

If it loses the inquiry, Henderson threatens not to sell, meaning the buildings will remain derelict, with minimal maintenance done to preserve them. “If we lose, it will stay as it is,” says Mr Harris. The massive basement running underneath the site will be used as a car park to bring in some revenue, he adds.

The conservation campaigners call this emotional blackmail.

“It’s not blackmail, it’s sensible economics,” retorts Mr Harris. “We won’t lose out.”

This would be the worst possible outcome, according to Nigel Barker, London planning and conservation director at English Heritage.

“Our question for the planning inspector is, can Save’s proposals deliver a long-term future for the building?” he says. “They have to be absolutely sure that they can be delivered. It’s hearts and minds against hard economics.”

'Public supports McAslan's Smithfield plans', claim backers

Architect gives evidence during public inquiry into £160m development

John McAslan has denied his £160 million Smithfield redevelopment was designed to cram in as much office space as his client “could get away with”.

The architect, giving evidence at the public inquiry into the scheme, said he would have refused a brief that demanded the demolition of the historic market, as envisaged in a previous plan by KPF.

Instead he stressed how much original fabric was retained by his practice’s proposal and said it reached “the right balance” between restoration and viability.

McAslan, who later briefly walked out of the inquiry, was being cross-examined by David Cooper, solicitor for Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society, which object to the architect’s plans.

Cooper asked McAslan: “If there’s a conflict between the wish of [the developer] Henderson to make more profits you will go along with your paymaster’s desire to have as many offices as they can get away with.” McAslan replied: “Absolutely not.”

He said he was guided in part by intuition. “As an architect you usually have a sense, and I think I have a heightened sense, of what may or may not work on projects,” he added.

Far from overshadowing the market, the stepped retail and office “pavilions” would “celebrate the retained elements”.

He said Foster & Partners’ 2005 offices at Spitalfields market were a “far less elegantly” realised version of the one he has proposed for Smithfield.

Henderson’s barrister, Christopher Katkowski, said the conservationists’ “campaigning hyperbole” suggesting the market would be “swept away” was quite wrong.

“If these well thought-through proposals are turned down, and you returned to look around in a few years’ time, one thing’s for sure,” he said. “You won’t find yourself enjoying the delights of an artisan market in wonderfully restored Victorian buildings. For this notion, however well-meaning and however beguiling, is nonetheless to move into the realms of fantasy.”

Developer Cathedral throws weight behind SAVE's alternative Smithfield plans

Design-savvy developer Cathedral has become the latest name to take up arms in the ‘Second Battle of Smithfield’

The company has pledged its support for rival plans to John McAslan + Partners’ contentious £160million proposals for the London market. The developer confirmed it will be ‘submitting detailed evidence’ for a scheme to retain the existing buildings at the public inquiry into McAslan’s proposed office-led revamp of the decaying landmark which starts tomorrow (11 February).

John McAslan's proposals for Smithfield General Market

John McAslan's proposals for Smithfield General Market

John McAslan's proposals for Smithfield General Market 

John McAslan's proposals for Smithfield General Market

An alternative scheme to McAslan’s ‘destructive’ plans for the Victorian market, drawn up by Burrell Foley Fischer, has been put forward by anti-demolition campaigners SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society. Cathedral said it had looked at the financial viability of keeping the existing fabric - and whether it could be be turned into a mixed-use scheme - rather than the specifics of the SAVE scheme.

Richard Upton, chief executive of Cathedral said: ‘At the request of SAVE, Cathedral Group and its team of professional advisers has undertaken a full viability assessment to establish a clear economic argument for a retention scheme which will enable the spirit and fabric of the historic Smithfield Market buildings to be preserved.

‘We are confident enough of this assessment to have requested an opportunity to present our detailed evidence to the inspector during the forthcoming public inquiry.’

However the move has been condemned by Henderson Global Investors, the developer behind McAslan’s ‘official’ scheme saying that the evidence offered by Cathedral should be disregarded.

Geoff Harris, development director of Henderson said: ‘We will be vigorously objecting to this blatant breach by SAVE of the Procedural Rules which govern public inquiries.

‘SAVE is showing contempt for the timetable for the submission of evidence set and agreed by all parties at the pre-inquiry meeting with the inspector last year.

He concluded: ‘There are no grounds for the submission of detailed evidence on the opening day of the public inquiry by the Cathedral Group on behalf of SAVE and this latest stunt by SAVE should be thrown out by the inspector.’

The inquiry is expected to last three weeks.

Architects take to the trenches as Battle for Smithfield round II begins

Cathedral makes dramatic 11th-hour bid to submit evidence to public inquiry

A cast of architects and architectural historians is lining up on opposing sides over John McAslan’s Smithfield redevelopment plans on the eve of the second public inquiry into the historic market.

A three-week inquiry opens tomorrow at the City of London Guildhall, with John McAslan himself the first person due to give evidence, on behalf of his client, developer Henderson Global Investors.

Today it emerged that rival developer Cathedral Group made an 11th-hour request on Friday night – after the deadline had passed – to submit detailed evidence backing the preservationists’ case that there is a viable alternative.

Martyn Evans, Cathedral’s creative director, told BD they had been working for several weeks on an appraisal of the viability of retaining the buildings.

This approach is also the focus of an independent planning application submitted by Save Britain’s Heritage, architect Burrell Foley Fischer and market entrepreneur Eric Reynolds.

“We are hopeful the inspector will allow our evidence,” said Evans. “We feel it’s right that it’s heard. This is not a spat between property developers, but an important issue about London’s heritage. That place is amazing and it needs to be carefully thought about.”

He insisted he had “enormous respect” for John McAslan and argued the brief was wrong not the architect.

Henderson accused Save of a “blatant breach” of procedure and vowed to “vigorously” oppose Cathedral’s attempt to speak at the inquiry, for which a detailed timetable has already been published.

McAslan’s evidence will be followed by Peter Rees, planning officer for the City of London, which owns the market in Farringdon, and Nigel Barker, English Heritage’s London planning and conservation director.

Among those giving evidence for the other side are Victorian Society director Chris Costelloe, engineer Alan Baxter, heritage consultant Philip Davies, and John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fischer.

A number of other architects and academics have lodged letters of support and objection.

David Warrender, a director at Foggo Associates whose offices face the northern side of the market, described the McAslan design as an “excellent, understated and elegant scheme of considerable subtlety by a distinguished architect with a proven track record of producing high-quality successful commercial architecture and public realm”.

The retention of the perimeter buildings, designed by Horace Jones, would retain the character of the area while increased accessibility through the site would revitalise the public realm, he said.

But 5th Studio director Tom Holbrook, whose London office is half a mile from Smithfield, warned the City’s planning committee had a “fragile and neglected piece of the city in their hands, faced by an asymmetrically powerful opponent”.

He wrote: “It is for precisely this situation that the protective mechanisms of conservation were established, together with planning rules that attempt to rebalance and protect valuable urban fabric.”

He said it was “astonishing” that the City could countenance replacing the historic buildings with “bland and homogenous offices and clonetown retailing” after the “lessons” of Covent Garden and Les Halles in Paris and the success of Borough and Camden markets.

Tim Knox, director of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, who lives in east London, also wrote to object, alleging that the site had been “deliberately neglected” for 30 years.

Knox, an architectural historian and former director the Soane Museum, said the “poor-quality and destructive” scheme would “gravely damage and in part destroy a great Victorian London landmark”.

The market was the subject of previous redevelopment plans that were thrown out at a public inquiry in 2008. McAslan’s scheme won planning in July but was called in by planning minister Nick Boles.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Bid to save historic market from developers set for public inquiry

A bid to save “one of the most important markets in the country” from development will be discussed at a celebrity-backed public inquiry next week.

Smithfield General Market, in Farringdon Road, is said to be under threat after Henderson Global Investors were given the green light for a £160million project to knock down part the building and build a seven-storey office block and shopping complex on the site.

Celebrities - including writer Alan Bennett and Four Weddings and a Funeral star Kristin Scott Thomas - heritage groups and Islington Council have opposed the move and Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for communities and Local Government, then called it in.

Now the plan will be discussed at the inquiry - which opens at 10am on Tuesday and runs for 12 days - before the planning inspector makes his report.

Ms Scott Thomas said: “We should be treasuring this part of our heritage. What the Paris developers did to Les Halles is remembered as an act of vandalism. Do we really want to be remembered as the generation who did the same thing to London?”

Alan Bennett added: “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.”

Chris Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society who will give evidence at the inquiry, said: “This is possibly the most important market complex in country and Henderson want to scrape out the middle of it and build offices.

“The new buildings would stick up over the existing structure and do great damage to the [Charterhouse] conservation area.

“It’s because building is not listed, a decision we don’t agree with, that this has been allowed to go ahead.

“We have submitted an alternative plan, alongside Eric Reynolds, who worked on Camden and Shoreditch Markets to use the site as a retail market.

“Inquiries are unpredictable, but we feel we have strong case.”

The General Market was built in 1883 and sold fruit and vegetables, closed in the 80’s and has been empty since - there has been some kind of market on the site for the last 800 years.

The inquiry is open to members of the public and takes place at The Guildhall, in the City of London.

Geoff Harris, development director at Henderson Global Investors, said: “What we are proposing is a credible, funded and viable scheme which saves 75 per cent of the historic buildings at Smithfield Quarter.

“There is no realistic alternative and if our scheme does not get approved after the public inquiry, then these disused historic buildings will continue to decay and the site will continue to be blighted by further uncertainty.

“We have a chance to really make something of these buildings and we hope that it is not too late to return them to sustainable long term use. Smithfield Quarter is the last real opportunity to save the Victorian heritage of these buildings by delivering a commercially viable development.

“We look forward to presenting our case at public inquiry.”

Smithfield market inquiry to open after protests against £160m redevelopment

Save Britain's Heritage calls McAslan plan for office and shops 'worst mutilation of a major Victorian building in 30 years'

A small boy grapples with a dolphin above the entrance to Smithfield General Market in the City of London, blissfully unaware that he'll soon have bigger fish to contend with. The majestic complex of brick and cast-iron market halls, which have stood here since 1883, but lain derelict for the last 15 years, are facing a controversial £160m plan to scoop out their innards and insert six-storey blocks of shops and offices in their place. It is a plan, in the eyes of its critics, akin to squeezing a whale inside a minnow.

"It would be the worst mutilation of a major Victorian building in 30 years," said Marcus Binney, chairman of Save Britain's Heritage, which has campaigned against the scheme with the Victorian Society and others, prompting Eric Pickles to order a public inquiry, which begins on Tuesday. "The architects talk mischievously and misleadingly about 'dismantling' and reusing parts of the building, but it's a complete sham. They are destroying the grandest parade of market buildings in Europe."

The proposals, designed by architect John McAslan for the international investment firm Henderson Global, will retain the brick-and-stone perimeter buildings, and insert three blocks in the centre of the complex, rising up to 20 metres and providing over 21,000 square metres of office space and 5,700 square metres of shops.

"We are retaining as much of the existing buildings as we possibly can, but it has to be a viable scheme," said McAslan, who has a track record of intelligent intervention in historic structures, from the Camden Roundhouse to the recent restoration and extension of King's Cross station. "It's not just a facade job – we're keeping the entirety of the Fish Market and reusing most of the original columns and beams, while the whole ground floor will be open for retail. Around 75% of the existing fabric will remain."

The buildings in question, which stand to the west of the still-functioning meat market, are the work of Horace Jones, the City of London's surveyor from 1864 to 1887 and architect of Billingsgate and Leadenhall markets, as well as Tower Bridge.

"It is his finale," says Binney. "He upped his game at the end of his career and introduced these wonderful Phoenix columns [a very strong yet light wrought-iron column that allowed greater distances to be spanned] from America, topped with Egyptian capitals. It's a really noble space of lattice girders and arched trusses, topped with a fine postwar saucer dome – and the whole lot is being ripped out."

Save Britain's Heritage and the Victorian Society, who together have gathered over 10,000 signatures of support, have submitted an alternative planning application to transform the complex into a public market and workspaces. The plan is backed by Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management, who established Camden Lock market in the 1970s and masterminded the rejuvenation of Spitalfields in the 1990s – both then derelict, now thriving.

"We want it to be more than just a market," says Reynolds. "There will be food and clothes, but also workshops and studios, drawing on the traditional clockmaking and silversmithing industries of the area."

The plan is costed at about £16–18m, to be funded by market rents, as at Spitalfields, with a potential later phase planned to open up the atmospheric netherworld of basements that spread below the market halls. "London is increasingly full of the usual clone outlets, but this would be a place of idea exchange," says Reynolds. "It may sound wet and wobbly, but it is what makes places interesting."

Labour's parliamentary candidate for the area, Nik Slingsby, has come out in support of the scheme, joining a star-studded list of backers, from Alan Bennett to Kristin Scott Thomas.

"If you go to St Bartholomew's and then walk through Smithfield, it is like walking from one cathedral to another," said Bennett. "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."

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Labour backs 'stop McAslan' scheme for Smithfield

Candidate supports rival proposal by Burrell Foley Fischer on eve of public inquiry

The campaign against John McAslan & Partners’ scheme to redevelop Smithfield Market in Farringdon has received a political boost on the eve of a public inquiry into the proposals.

Nik Slingsby, Labour candidate for the central London constituency where the market stands, announced his support for the rival scheme developed by Burrell Foley Fischer and Eric Reynolds.

It was put in for planning by Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society to the City of London Corporation in December to pave the way for a “rescue plan”.

Burrell Foley Fischer’s rival Smithfield plans

Slingsby, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster, said McAslan’s plans for Henderson Global Investors would “totally destroy [the] magnificent buildings”.

He added: “Having worked and studied close to the beautiful Smithfield Market, I fully support Save Britain’s Heritage and the Victorian Society’s planning application for the Smithfield General Market and Annex.

“Their scheme would preserve the Victorian heritage of the market while creating an urban centre of food markets, restaurants and cafes.

“This is an exciting and historically sensitive alternative to Henderson Global Investors’ radical redevelopment of the market into office blocks.”

John McAslan’s plans to overhaul London’s Smithfield Market

The McAslan scheme, which would insert six storeys of office and retail behind the Victorian facades, won planning last summer.

It was called in by communities secretary Eric Pickles two months later and the planning inquiry is due to open next week.

Slingsby, who has to overturn an 11,000 majority to oust sitting Tory MP Mark Field at next year’s general election, said the conservation bodies would “present a strong and robust case that covers the architectural merits of the buildings, the viability of bringing them back into use and the paucity of the Henderson scheme both in terms of design and sustainability”.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Labour comes out against McAslan’s Smithfield plans

The Labour Party has waded into the ‘Second Battle of Smithfield’ after coming out against John McAslan + Partners’ contentious £160 million plans for the London market

The party’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster, Nik Slingsby, said he supported an alternative plan to ‘sensitively’ repair and reopen the famous Victorian market proposed by SAVE - the lead campaigner against McAslan’s ‘destructive’ designs.

His comments come just days before the public inquiry (11 February) into McAslan’s plans - drawn up for Henderson Global Investors - which would see the General Market and Annex converted into 5,700m² of shops and 21,220m² of office space.

Slingsby said: ‘Having worked and studied close to the beautiful Smithfield Market, I fully support SAVE’s and the Victorian Society’s [rival] planning application.

‘Their scheme would preserve the Victorian heritage of the market while creating an urban centre of food markets, restaurants and cafes [run by Eric Reynold’s Urban Space Management]. This is an exciting and historically sensitive alternative to Henderson’s radical redevelopment of the market into office blocks.’

McAslan’s proposals were called in by communities secretary Eric Pickles last September (see below) after winning planning from the City of London in July 2013.

It is the second time a major scheme for the decaying central London market site has been scrutinised at public inquiry.

Six years ago KPF’s controversial proposal to flatten the buildings and replace them with a huge office scheme was thrown out by communities secretary Hazel Blears.

Defending his scheme last month, John McAslan said the proposed development would give ‘the old and the new a living and enduring future.’

Monday, 27 January 2014

Report finds alternative plans for Smithfield would make £22.23m loss

Alternative plans for the redevelopment of Smithfield market would make a loss of £22.23m, according to a report by Knight Frank.

The report, commissioned by Henderson as part of the public inquiry into the scheme, said a number of miscalculations in evidence put forward by opposition group SAVE meant there was a £4.78m shortfall in the amount of equity and/or debt required alone.

SAVE wants to retain all of the original fittings and interiors from the grade II-listed scheme and has proposed its own alternative development.

Henderson’s £160m proposals, which include the partial demolition of the existing buildings at 43 Farringdon Street to create office and retail space and the partial demolition of 25 Snow Hill and 29 Smithfield Street to provide further office and retail space, were called in by secretary of state Eric Pickles in September last year.

The Knight Frank report, which was handed to the inquiry today, found that SAVE’s proposed alternative for the site is based on receiving a 20 year term for the loan, which “is virtually unobtainable in today’s market”.

Andrew Tyler, partner at Frank Knight, who wrote the report, said: “It is clear from our findings that SAVE’s revised proposal is still economically unviable and not deliverable.  I do not believe that funding can be obtained for the proposal and there has been no evidence submitted to confirm that either the equity or the debt is actually achievable on this scheme.”

SAVE president Marcus Binney said: “Henderson’s proposed gutting of Smithfield General Market will be the worst mutilation of a Victorian landmark in 30 years. Eric Reynolds’ offer shows there is no commercial necessity for this destruction, and that refurbishment is a viable alternative.”

Friday, 24 January 2014

John McAslan versus SAVE as second battle of Smithfield looms

Ahead of the public inquiry, architect John McAslan and SAVE’s Marcus Binney present arguments for and against the Smithfield Market overhaul

Six years ago KPF’s controversial proposal to flatten Smithfield General Market and replace it with a huge office scheme was thrown out by communities secretary Hazel Blears.

Next month a less dramatic but similarly contentious scheme by John McAslan for developer Henderson will run the gauntlet at public inquiry (11 February).

The £160 million project, if approved, would see the Victorian landmark converted into 5,700m² of shops and 21,220m² of office space.


John McAslan, executive chairman and founder, John McAslan + Partners

For decades, the future of the western end of Smithfield Market has presented one of London’s most engrossing placemaking challenges. This is a site of quite unusual complexity in terms of its composition of original buildings, gradient and infrastructure. Such complexity is not unusual in our work: the restoration and adaptive re-use of historic buildings is a long-established area of expertise.

A key feature of our Smithfield Quarter scheme is that it retains the majority of the original fabric of the four historic buildings within the development envelope: none are listed, but they lie within the Smithfield Conservation Area. We initially explored designs that retained all the original fabric, but they were unviable in every sense. Our subsequent mixed-use proposals gained a resolution to grant planning permission from the City Corporation and clear support from local residents and businesses, English Heritage, Design Council CABE, and Boris Johnson.

A significant factor in the design of our scheme is that it has grown gradually, across five years, allowing my practice to develop a thoroughly detailed understanding of this segment of Smithfield and the Conservation Area. This tempered our reactions to the possibilities regarding retention of the most historically significant original fabric.

We admire, without question, the best of the old buildings. In 1889, as Smithfield Market was being extended westwards to Farringdon Road, William Morris said of historic fabric in general: ‘All continuity of history means is, after all, perpetual change.’ Morris also insisted that, in the process of change, old buildings must either be entirely swept away, or retained, unchanged, as ‘relics of the past’.

Neither option is valid at the western end of Smithfield. The question here for any client or architect is: how can change be inspired by both precedent and modern ideas to produce a Smithfield Quarter scheme that will ultimately be experienced as a place where 19th and 21st century architecture co-exist to produce new activities, spatial character and contrast – a place where people can live, work, relax, or simply amble through with pleasure? I believe only a fusion of history and new architecture can make this site fully active and attractive to a wide range of people and uses.

This fusion of old and new has been crucial to our other transformations of historically important buildings or sites. For example, my practice’s modernisation, restoration and extension of King’s Cross station produced a range of interventions appropriate to the ensemble of buildings and infrastructure, combining sensitive repair of Grade I-listed fabric with an absolutely contemporary architectural and engineering design. This scheme won the 2013 Europa Nostra Award for Cultural Heritage, adding something vivid, operationally successful, and widely praised to Cubitt’s tough, stripped-down Victorian original.

Our scheme for Smithfield Quarter has drawn on the same design, engineering and placemaking instincts: in essence, it is founded on a balance of restoration, spatial clarification, and new build pavilions inserted on the slope behind retained Victorian buildings.

The detailed design evolved through a prism of key potentials: the retention of the most significant historic fabric; the need to bring new social and commercial energies into play; a careful consideration of scale and townscape issues in the new buildings; refinement of materials and design details; and, most important of all, to create a scheme that is clear in deciding which original buildings and features are historically valuable – and which are not. Old and new fabric has been brought together in a way that creates honest contrast, a freshly convivial sense of place – and change.

The longer-term sustainability of Smithfield Quarter depends on the synergies of these ingredients. It’s a balancing act of uses, building types, the creation of greater physical permeability, shifts in vista and atmosphere, and commercial viability.

To those who question our scheme, I would say: we need to retain the best of the old and complement it appropriately with the best of the new. That is why our design makes the substantially retained historic fabric central to the coherence of our scheme. We want to accentuate what is historically potent – key elevations, and historic features such as the Phoenix Columns, remain. Thus, retained fabric can work as literal evidence of the past, but also play a full part in activating the tableau as a whole.

William Morris spoke of the ‘startling’ gulf between the past and the present. At Smithfield Quarter, it’s surely a bridge across that gulf that is needed – a development that serves change by giving the old and the new a living and enduring future.


Marcus Binney, chief executive, SAVE Britain’s Heritage (SAVE)

I salute John McAslan for his brilliant work at Peter Jones and King’s Cross, but part company completely over his proposal for Smithfield General Market. This is not an enlightened reworking of historic buildings. It is needless destruction of both authentic fabric and public realm, and is also strongly opposed by the Victorian Society.

SAVE’s casus belli is McAslan’s complete demolition of the handsome Victorian market halls. Amazingly, both Henderson Global Investors, the clients, and McAslan avoid the D-word, talking mischievously of ‘soft strip’ and ‘dismantling’. Let’s be clear: all Sir Horace Jones’s light and airy roofs supported on elegant trusses and flying ribs will be destroyed, as well as the neat saucer dome, a very good piece of war damage reconstruction in the manner of Pier Luigi Nervi, designed as early as 1948 by George Halliday, City Surveyor. In place of Jones’ extensive General Market hall of 2,166m² will be a food hall of just 873m², just 5m high and without Jones’s sunlight and natural ventilation.

Henderson’s CGIs suggest that Jones’s lofty market halls are being retained. Look carefully and you will see the majestic Phoenix Columns, which create Jones’s spacious open layout, are cut down and put back in shortened form, with new steel infill to support the huge area of new offices above.

Even more misleading are the images of the Annex or former Fish Market, with its clever triangle of top-lit arcades in the manner of Leadenhall Market. The main arcade running through the site, connecting with the lovely railway-style canopy across the street, will be entirely destroyed, as it has to be rebuilt to support another seven-storey office block above. Natural daylight here will also be lost.

McAslan’s external interventions are just as brutal to the townscape. Smithfield is an area of low-rise buildings providing a welcome contrast to the high-rises of the City and  Holborn and the soulless canyon of Farringdon Road, London’s architecturally most dismal, ugliest thoroughfare. McAslan doubles the height of the lively Victorian facades and scoops out one side of the island block facing onto West Poultry Avenue, where there will be a clumsy junction between old and new.

The main justification for all this is a simple shotgun argument: if you don’t let us proceed, the buildings will decay and in 10 years’ time you will have to accept something much worse. English Heritage has argued that, as the City Corporation cannot be compelled to repair its own market buildings (though it has had no problem looking after the Meat Market), the market halls have to be sacrificed.

There is, anyway, a fully-fledged alternative to Henderson. SAVE, with Eric Reynolds’s London’s leading market entrepreneur, has submitted a planning application for straightforward re-use of the market buildings for market and retail uses. John Burrell is our architect and he points outs that it is the whole grand architectural composition street frontages and covered halls of Sir Horace Jones which makes Smithfield a distinctive composition of world stature.

This is one of the most historic quarters of London, with Bart’s Hospital, the Charterhouse and St Bartholomew the Great. Yet it was not the City Corporation which extended the conservation area to protect the market but the Greater London Council. Just as much as Covent Garden or the Marais in Paris, this is an area where historic fabric and historic public realm must be protected.

An intriguing item in McAslan’s evidence is a photo of his dazzling reconstruction of the 19th century market halls in Port-au-Prince in Haiti, with a handsome range of lofty iron and glass roofs. John, if you can do it Haiti, you can do it in Smithfield.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Knight Frank slates Smithfield alternative scheme

Knight Frank has said that SAVE Britain's Heritage proposed alternative refurbishment scheme for London's Smithfield market is "economically unviable", in a report that forms part of evidence which Henderson Global Investors (Henderson) is submitting ahead of a public inquiry in February 2014.

SAVE Britain's Heritage and the Victorian Society's proposed scheme "has a number of fundamental flaws in its conception and more importantly finances", Andrew Tyler of Knight Frank said, according to reports by the Times and real estate business Co-Star. He said the group's initiative could lose as much as £20 million.
SAVE Britain's Heritage and the Victorian Society are opposed to Henderson's plans to redevelop the site.

"It is clear that the buildings will require substantial capital expenditure before their re-use, and given their current state, a refurbishment scheme would be entirely unviable," Tyler said, according to Co-Star's report.
Tyler also said that refurbishing the existing structure at Smithfield market would be very challenging and would produce inefficient and fragmented space, which would fail to attract sufficient rental income.

In contrast, Knight Frank concluded that Henderson's proposals "will meet the demands of today's occupiers and will have sound financial dynamics," the report said.

Henderson obtained planning permission from the City of London Corporation for the scheme, called Smithfield Quarter, following its purchase of the disused buildings out of administration in 2010.

Most planning applications are decided locally by the borough or other local planning authority. However, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles used his reserve powers to direct City of London Corporation to refer Henderson's application to him to consider.

The proposals, which involve converting the market into offices, restaurants, shops and a piazza, will now be the subject of a ,public inquiry in February 2014, following t which a planning inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State.

Henderson's scheme is supported by the Government's heritage adviser English Heritage, which states that a scheme with "less or no new development ... would not be financially viable," according to the Co-Star report. The Mayor of London, the Smithfield Market Tenants' Association and the Government's design adviser CABE all also support Henderson's Smithfield Quarter scheme.