July 9, 2014
The UK’s Communities secretary Eric Pickles has – in no uncertain terms – thrown out the controversial £160m plans to redevelop London’s historic Smithfield Market. The development, which would have been located in the heart of London’s creative and office design communities, was rejected with a strongly worded statement that concluded: ‘the extent of damage that the application would cause to the important heritage assets at Smithfield runs entirely counter to national and policy objectives intended to protect such assets from harm and that this would seriously undermine any economic, social or environmental benefits otherwise arising from the development, such that the proposal would not represent sustainable development.’ Objections to the plans had been led by the Victorian Society and Save Britain’s Heritage and enjoyed the backing of high profile public figures such as Alan Bennett, Kristin Scott Thomas and RIBA Journal editor Hugh Pearman.
The developers, TIAA-Henderson Real Estate now has six weeks to appeal the decision at the High Court. Their Smithfield Quarter plans remain for a mixed use development of offices, shops and restaurants at the western end of Smithfield Market, excluding the meat market, was designed by John McAslan and Partners. The plans would retain three quarters of the historic market buildings which have now lain derelict for more than 30 years, although the ‘deliberate neglect’ of the property ultimately counted against the developers according to the Communities Secretary’s report.
The scheme had the support of the City of London, the Mayor of London, the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association, Design Council CABE and English Heritage as well as a number of local residents and businesses.
Responding to the announcement, Geoff Harris, head of development at TIAA-Henderson Real Estate, said: “We are surprised and extremely disappointed with the decision taken by the Secretary of State, which, in our view, has been influenced by a disingenuous campaign employed by a small minority of objectors. Our scheme was supported by English Heritage, Design Council CABE, the City of London, the Mayor of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association; our scheme would have saved and brought back to life these Victorian market buildings that have lain empty for decades and this decision will condemn these disused historic buildings to continued decay and yet further uncertainty.”