Friday, 13 December 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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