The future of the historic Smithfield Market in London looks to have been secured after the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Hazel Blears, announced that she agrees with her Inspector’s recommendation that the conservation area should not be demolished.
Detail of General Market Building that was threatened with demolition. © English Heritage
The news, announced today on August 7 2008, means that the Smithfield General Market Building will remain intact and planning permissions will be refused for a proposed replacement scheme. In effect, the Secretary of State has accepted the evidence of English Heritage that the General Market Building could and should be re-used.
“This is a fantastic day for London’s heritage and for all those who care about what makes this great city special,” said Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage.
“This decision proves that the historic environment is about much more than just individual listed buildings – this is an acknowledgement of the many unlisted - but not unloved - buildings which collectively create a powerful sense of place and positively contribute to the fabric of the city.”
The General Market Building as it stands today on Farringdon Road. © English Heritage
“We are sure that local authorities across the country will take note of this important decision, which is a timely reminder of their duty to safeguard the special character of conservation areas in their care as well as historic buildings, listed or not, for the contribution they make,” added Mr Thurley.
An Inquiry opened in November 2007 into the future of the historic western market buildings at Smithfield in London, which included proposals for the wholesale demolition of the Victorian General Market Building, an integral part of the historic market complex and the Smithfield Conservation Area.
Proposals by the City of London Corporation to demolish and replace the building were strongly opposed by English Heritage. They accused the City Corporation of flouting Government planning policy by neglecting the buildings which it owns and failing to offer them on the open market for reuse before agreeing to their demolition and alteration.
English Heritage visualisation of how the General Market Building could look repaired and reused. © English Heritage
A raft of experts, including the architect Sir Terry Farrell, were enlisted to help put English Heritage’s case for a viable re-use of the building rather than replacement by a seven-storey block.
“We now expect the Corporation to take the opportunity to bring forward a creative scheme for the repair and re-use of the General Market Building, Annex and Red House Cold Store, to enable them to fully contribute to the important conservation area in which they sit,” added Mr Thurley.