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SAVE: McAslan's latest plans will destroy Smithfield

Clem Cecil of SAVE Britain’s Heritage hits out at the ‘destruction’ proposed in John McAslan + Partner’s latest plans for London’s Smithfield Market

‘The latest plans for the redevelopment of the Smithfield General Market built by Horace Jones in 1879-1883, author of Billingsgate Market and Tower Bridge yet again propose its destruction, bar a token nod towards conservation.

”SAVE Britain’s Heritage initiated a Public Inquiry against the previous owners, Thornfield, who planned to demolish the building in 2007. The application for demolition was for conservation area consent, but the rejection covered both the redbrick buildings surrounding each block and the iron and glass and wooden roofs.

The new project merely nods at conservation

The new plans from John McAslan propose gutting the building, leaving just the curtilage, and inserting three new rectangular volumes, rising up to over 20 metres high, breaking up the Smithfield series of four market buildings, described by SAVE President Marcus Binney as ‘the grandest parade of market buildings in Europe.’ 

‘The General Market was damaged by a bomb during the war, losing a corner and its tent-like dome. For this reason it was not listed, rendering the ensemble vulnerable. 

‘The opportunity to create a fantastic public space at Smithfield has been overlooked by the City Corporation that appears happy to see the market sold off piecemeal. We hope that English Heritage, a key witness in the Public Inquiry of 2008, will push for maximum conservation and the retention of the roofs, so important to the entire market ensemble and the Smithfield Conservation Area. 

The scheme retains only elements of the facade while sacrificing the roof structure

‘The new project merely nods towards conservation - the rendered image of the remodelled interior by McAslan is beguiling but plays fast and loose with the building’s historic elements and fittings. It retains only elements of the facade while sacrificing the roof structure, that not only creates a lively, light-filled interior, but is also visible from the Holborn Viaduct and whose chimneys harmonise with the turrets and roofscape of the other market buildings. 

‘The markets have enormous underground areas that could be used for retail. The cost of erecting new buildings over the underground rail tunnels and sidings will be immense.

‘SAVE has repeatedly shown with campaigns that have successfully championed Covent Garden and Billingsgate Market, that London’s great market buildings are vital to the city. 

‘A nine-storey office block, Caxton House, also by Hendersons, is being built across the road from the General Market. If we do not save the historic gems we have, they will be drowned out by the same dreary office blocks that have condemned Farringdon Road for so long. 

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