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.”