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Museum of London set for consent for £337m new Smithfield home

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The Museum of London is set to win planning for its £337 million plans to overhaul Smithfield Market into its new base

Much of the Grade II-listed 1860s market complex has lain vacant and in disrepair for 30 years, while the poultry market, which is still in use, has been earmarked for relocation to Dagenham.

But a 2.2ha site will soon contain a ‘24-hour cultural destination’ occupying the westernmost buildings in the complex under plans drawn up by Stanton Williams, Asif Khan and Julian Harrap Architects.

The Museum of London is preparing to move around 7 million objects to its new home and vacate its current base on London Wall, at the south-western corner of the Barbican.

Its new Smithfield base will also be surrounded by shops, gym and office space in renovated trader units.

Planners at City of London have recommended the scheme is approved at the authority’s planning meeting tomorrow (23 June).

They described the scheme as an ‘exceptional and world-class example of the sensitive restoration and re-use of historic buildings whilst maximising economic and socially inclusive public access’.

They added that it would have ‘exemplary environmental and sustainability credentials’ due to the re-use of existing building fabric as well as installation of solar panels.

However, planners also acknowledged that there would ‘inevitably be some harm to historic fabric through the remodelling of interiors […] and through the alteration of historic fabric to accommodate new uses’.

Asif Khan and Stanton Williams would not be the first architects to receive permission to redevelop the site. John McAslan + Partners and Kohn Pedersen Fox were given consent for applications submitted in 2008 and 2014 respectively, but both schemes were ultimately dismissed after being called in by government. 

The latest design team landed the prized job – budgeted at £250 million in 2017 – following a contest organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants in 2016. The competition had an indicative price tag of £150 million but the costs have steadily risen due to an increase in floor space and a change in layout as buildings next door to the main 1880s General Market building have become available.

The exisitng buildings were also found to be in a worse state than first thought and a ‘large chunk’ of cash has been required to bring them into a useable state.

Planning consent for the Museum of London’s scheme would be welcomed by backers of the Museum of London, who are hoping to submit a planning application for a redevelopment of the museum’s current Barbican site next year.

The site would be used for a new £288 million home for the London Symphony Orchestra, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

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