Fight for Smithfield

Butchers who trade at Smithfield market in London yesterday staged a protest over the campaign by English Heritage to stop the redevelopment of part of the historic market.

English heritage is campaigning to stop the demolition of the Victorian general market building, part of the market complex, arguing that the City Corporation should instead allow developers to repair the original structure.

But Thornfield Properties, which is proposing to demolish the structure and build an office block said essential underground repair work meant repairing the original building was unrealistic: "What you can't see on the surface is that the Thameslink rail tunnels form part of the building and these tunnels are in need of repair.

"It is the liability of the building owner to undertake these multi-million pound repairs and it can't realistically be done technically or financially without demolishing the building."

Smithfield market tenants association is supporting the demolition and construction of the new office block, arguing that the general market building has been empty and derelict for over 10 years.

Greg Lawrence, chairman of the Smithfield market tenants association, said: "It is completely perplexing that English Heritage is opposing what is an excellent development that will uplift the area and protect the meat market when they have failed to list the general market building on five occasions. The general market building, not part of today's thriving meat market, is a derelict eyesore in our opinion."

A public inquiry opened yesterday, which will decide the fate of the market.

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