The Communities Secretary has rejected John McAslan & Partners’ £160 million proposal to fill Smithfield Market in London with shops and offices and accused the buildings’ owners – City Corporation, of ‘deliberate neglect’ leading to their deteriorating condition.
Eric Pickles made the shock announcement today following a public inquiry into the scheme which was devised by Henderson Global Investors.
In a strongly worded statement, he singled out the City of London Corporation, who own the buildings, for criticism.
“The deteriorated state of the buildings is, at least in part, the result of the history of deliberate neglect and that, in assessing the planning balance, less weight should therefore be given to the current condition of the buildings and the consequent benefit of their repair,” he said.
The decision was hailed as a major victory by Save and the Victorian Society who fought the proposal, arguing that it would do too much damage to the historic fabric of Horace Jones’ market buildings in Farringdon.
Urban Space Management's Eric Reynolds argued that the buildings had an alternative economic use that did not involve demolition.
Together with The Cathedral Group, USM produced an independent assessment showing an alternative re-use which could bring the crumbling buildings back into use as a market ready to take advantage of the arrival of Crossrail.
In rejecting the application to demolish large parts of the Smithfields Market buildings the Secretary of State made clear that the alternative business case prepared by USM to refurbish and reuse the existing buildings was viable. A point that USM has been making consistently since 1996.
Eric Reynolds of USM said that "the important thing now was to move on in a positive way. The buildings should be brought into suitable public use as soon as practically possible. The best way to preserve historic buildings is to keep them in use. Crossrail could be ready to move out in a year or so and the reuse project should be prepared to open the doors immediately after the space is clear"
It is one of the highest-profile schemes rejected by Pickles who waved through Squire & Partners’ Shell Centre plans and David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House, drawing criticism from conservationists.
Pickles said the buildings involved in the Smithfield scheme, while not listed, were “heritage assets which contributed strongly to the distinctive character of the Smithfield Conservation Area”.