Smithfield Market was built by Sir Horace Jones
The public inquiry into the proposed £160 million of Smithfield Market, a Victorian site in the City of London, is being contested by the Victorian Society, who call the demolition of part of the building “brutal”, and Henderson Global Investors, who say their plans to create shops and offices are backed by a majority of the public.
Secretary of State Eric Pickles called the application in last year following a petition and vociferous campaign by the Society and Save Britain’s Heritage. Representatives from both sides, including experts from architects John McAslan, will give evidence until February 28.
Chris Costelloe, the Director of the Society, called on English Heritage to list the General Market and Fish Market.
"We consider that the engineering importance of the market hall of the General Market, due to be demolished under current plans, has not been adequately addressed,” he said.
“This is an innovative and ingenious structure, based on the modular structural system pioneered by the Crystal Palace.
“Its interior is also a magnificent space that very few Londoners have been able to see for many years.”
A YouGov poll of more than 1,100 Londoners, commissioned by Henderson, suggested that 56 percent of those questioned believed the scheme would improve the area, compared to only nine percent who felt the opposite.
“These results show that Londoners support our scheme, which will save and bring back to life Victorian market buildings that have lain empty for decades,” Geoff Harris, the director of Property Development at the company, told the Architects’ Journal.
“There is no realistic alternative to Smithfield Quarter and if our scheme does not get approved then these disused historic buildings will continue to decay, leaving the site blighted by further uncertainty.”
Save and the Victorian Society have suggested an alternative proposal which they say would turn the market into a “bustling hub” without the need for demolition, while English Heritage say Henderson’s plan would allow “long-term restoration”.