Smithfield traders lament government block on regeneration plans

Smithfield traders have expressed regret at the decision by the communities secretary Eric Pickles to reject proposals to breathe new life into the derelict former general markets and fish market buildings.

The £160m development proposal by TIAA Henderson Real Estate would have seen the empty building converted into shops, cafes, bars and an office block. However, the move was blocked by Pickles earlier this month, while the planning minister Nick Boles said the benefits of the scheme did not outweigh any potential harm to the historic area.

However, speaking at a breakfast in Butchers’ Hall to welcome the annual visit of the Lord Mayor to the market, the chairman of the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association, Greg Lawrence, said: “It is a matter for regret that the secretary of state has turned down Henderson’s plans for the disused general market and annex buildings. It is the second time that an inspector and secretary of state have commented on the City of London’s deliberate neglect of the buildings.”

He said the decision would likely lead to the further decay of the buildings, which had sat idle for “thirty years or more”, and called on all parties to come back to the table to try and come up with a solution.

The Henderson plan, which was backed by English Heritage, had involved demolishing the roof of the general market, but it had claimed up to 70% of the original fabric of the buildings would be retained.

Lawrence also flagged up issues with the traffic around Smithfield Market and said that a new plan to manage the traffic at the peak Christmas period had been presented to the Corporation of London’s Markets Committee that week. “I cannot tell you how much time and effort has been spent by the City’s staff and ourselves in putting together the first formal Christmas traffic plan for Smithfield.

“Christmas is the most important time of our trading year. It is wonderful to see the market really busy and creates a great atmosphere, but the downside has been occasional gridlock, not just in the market, but in the surrounding area too. This is not good for the market’s reputation or for the City’s, so a traffic plan is clearly needed.”

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