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City rebuked over Smithfield stance

Campaigners who successfully fought proposals to redevelop Smithfield Market have rebuked the City of London Corporation for attacking Eric Pickles’ decision to refuse the scheme

Last week the communities secretary said John McAslan & Partners’ plans to convert the market into 5,700m² of shops and 21,220m² of offices would have an ‘extremely harmful effect’ on the market’s listed and non-listed buildings, and that the structures’ current delapidated state could be attributed to a ‘history of deliberate neglect’.

The scheme, created for Henderson Global Investors, had been granted planning permission by the City of London Corporation last year and its chairman of policy and resources Mark Boleat has now slammed Pickles as ‘ridiculous’ for questioning the need for new office space in the area as part of his decision.

Clem Cecil, director of campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said it was ‘sad’ that the corporation could not accept the decision ‘with good grace’.

‘As we discovered when we were looking into the lease structure for the market buildings, the corporation remains largely unaccountable and it is rare that they are ordered at the highest level of state to rethink their plans,’ she said.

‘The significance of the decision from the secretary of state is that sometimes policy protecting heritage carries more weight than other local policy – for example that for building more offices.

‘This is a rare boost for the heritage sector, where the mantra in recent years, and as seen in English Heritage’s support of the Henderson scheme, is that the coin has to lead.”

Cecil said the corporation had ‘ignored’ former communities secretary Hazel Blears’ 2008 decision on earlier proposals for Smithfield, which had called for the site to be placed on the open market to encourage conservation-led schemes to come forward.

‘If the corporation had heeded that decision, the expense of this recent inquiry, that Mark Boleat laments, could easily have been avoided,’ she said.

‘SAVE Britain’s Heritage, USM, Cathedral, the Victorian Society and all those who are cheering this brave decision from the secretary of state, are holding a long-term view.

‘We too want what is best for London, and believe that can happen through regenerating the treasures that we already have. 

‘We hope that the City of London Corporation will swallow its pride and anticipate the praise they will surely receive from Londoners and visitors to the capital for generations to come if they put their back into implementing the secretary of state’s decision for these important buildings.’

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