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?