Tuesday, 27 November 2007

English Heritage defends architect’s ‘speculative’ plans for meat market

English Heritage claimed this week that archtiect Sir Terry Farrell’s plans for the redevelopment of London’s Smithfield meat market were ‘speculative’, and that it wanted the building to be saved.

Property Week has obtained a copy of the ‘secret plans’ that have angered the meat traders during the public inquiry into developer Thornfield Properties’ plans to redevelop the western end of the market into 380,000 sq ft of offices.

Farrell, who was asked by English Heritage two years ago to look at what made the Smithfield area ‘special’, has drawn up a plan that clearly shows a redevelopment of the entire market, not just the western end, which makes no provision for the wholesale meat market.

Paddy Pugh, English Heritage director for the London region, said: ‘All of this has become extremely muddled and has been used by the applicants [Thornfield] to stir up the traders. Farrell’s plan is not a masterplan. We are not in any position to suggest a masterplan. Farrell wasn’t asked to look at individual buildings but to look at the whole area.

‘Architects look at all sorts of ideas and one of the things that he did at that time was to speculate what would happen if the City of London was to close down the market.’

Pugh said the future of Smithfield had long been questioned. Both the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and London mayor Ken Livingstone recently speculated on its viability.

‘They have both said that in the long term it makes no sense for a wholesale meat market to be in the London area,’ said Pugh. ‘We would never want to see Smithfield close and we have no means to close down the market – only the City [of London] can do that. But we oppose Thornfield’s plans as we don’t want to see a change of that area to office use.’

The inquiry will run until January. The first phase ended last Friday when Thornfield completed its submission. English Heritage will present its evidence during the second stage in two weeks’ time and will present six expert witnesses.

Pugh said Eric Reynolds, founder of regeneration company Urban Space Management, would show that repairing the western buildings to create an urban market, similar to Camden Lock, was a viable option.

Thornfield managing director Mike Capocci said he would continue with its Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed plans. ‘It would be easy to say: let’s put up a block of flats and tart it all up. But the City doesn’t want that and the community doesn’t want that.’

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