SAVE Britain’s Heritage has launched an online petition against John McAslan & Partners’ contentious plans to overhaul Smithfield Market in central London
According to project backer Henderson Global Investors, the scheme has been submitted for planning this week following ‘ongoing consultation and work with the City [of London] and English Heritage over the last two years’ and will transform the General Market, Fish Market and Red House into offices and shops.
However, despite amendments to initial designs revealed last October (AJ 12.10.2012), SAVE insists the revised McAslan plan is still a ‘thinly veiled application for an office development with only a nod towards conservation’ which will see the demolition of a ‘remarkable group of Victorian market hall interiors.’
The conservation group is now petitioning architecture and heritage minister Ed Vaizey to step in and is also demanding that recommendations from a public inquiry four years ago into the earlier, even more controverisal KPF proposals are adherred to (AJ 07.08.2008).
SAVE director Clem Cecil said: ‘A public inquiry into the proposed demolition of the general market in 2008 came down firmly in favour of the retention of the building.
‘The Inspector ruled that the buildings should be put on the open market, before demolition was allowed. Henderson’s must not be allowed to avoid this test.’
She added: ‘Henderson is making extraordinary claims about how much of the existing fabric it intends to retain. What they are actually doing is getting rid of about 90 per cent of what is there – it is basically a new build within a skin.’
SAVE has also commissioned an alternative plan, drawn up by John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fischer, the scheme is being billed as a viable, conservation-led alternative to the Henderson concept for the unlisted market (AJ 14.11.2012).
A Henderson spokesman insisted the proposals would ‘retain and repair the historic fabric of the existing buildings’ with any new buildings set ’within the retained historic curtilage of the restored buildings’.
Geoff Harris, director of property development at Henderson, said: ‘The proposals are a result of significant research and analysis and a real commitment to retain the most significant parts of the building as they relate to the conservation area.
‘Henderson has sought to treat the historic elements with care and respect. Our proposals are a thorough and legitimate response to the challenges of putting these buildings back into proper long term sustainable use, both in terms of heritage and in terms of the very real issue of commercial sense. The key to our proposals is adding enough density without being excessive, and in a way that is sympathetic to retaining as much of the Victorian fabric as possible. We have listened during the public consultation process over the last few months and made amendments to our proposals where possible.
Henderson has sought to treat the historic elements with care and respect
He added: ‘Our proposals for the revitalisation of Smithfield Quarter will enhance the public amenity, infrastructure and physical structure at the heart of Smithfield and will preserve its historic character in a modern and informal fashion. It represents a significant investment in growth and regeneration and will create a much livelier and active social and public space for Smithfield and the wider City.
Speaking about the impacts on the area generally, Harris concluded: ‘The retail and office space on offer will provide a significant step forward for the wider regeneration of the Farringdon area. The proposals will guarantee the future of the area while maintaining and respecting its architectural character, streets, places and patterns of activity.’