Pickles refuses permission for Smithfield Market redevelopment, citing "great detriment to the surrounding area"

Out-Law News | 08 Jul 2014 | 4:45 pm | 2 min. read

Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has refused asset manager Henderson Global Investors' application for planning permission for a £160 million redevelopment of the former Smithfield Market in London's EC1.

Pickles said that the demolition of parts of the existing buildings under the proposals would be "of great detriment to the surrounding area".

Henderson submitted plans for the office-led regeneration scheme in February 2013 and the City of London Corporation approved the plans in July 2013. The proposals included the redevelopment of the ground floor of the former market, the Red House buildings and the old engine house to provide restaurants, shops and a two-part piazza.

Six floors of office space were planned in storage space between the Red House and the old Fish Market and the ground floor of the Annex building was proposed to house shops and restaurants. Most of the market's Victorian perimeter was proposed to be retained and restored.

The decision was called in by Pickles in September 2013 and Planning Inspector C. J. Ball issued a report in June recommending that the application be refused. The inspector said that "the public benefits of the scheme would not be anything like substantial enough to provide a clear and convincing justification for the extensive harm it would cause to Smithfield's historic environment".

The inspector found that the benefits of increased public access would be undermined by the fact that limited access points were planned; that the proposal did not represent "optimal viable use" of the buildings, and that the benefit of additional office space was minimal in an area with "no pressing need for new offices".

Agreeing with the inspector in his decision letter (120-page / 890 KB PDF) Pickles said that, while certain elements of the proposals would improve the appearance of the Smithfield Conservation Area and the mix of use suggested was appropriate, substantial damage would be caused to designated and non-designated heritage assets and this damage was not outweighed by the benefits of the scheme.

The blocks of offices planned for the General Market Hall and the Annex Market would "seriously affect the character and appearance of the area, causing substantial harm to the significance of the Smithfield Conservation Area as a whole", said Pickles.  

While the proposed partial removal of the canopy between the General Market and the Poultry Market "would not cause substantial harm to the significance of the Poultry Market as a listed building", Pickles found that "the disruption of their shared setting would cause substantial harm to the significance of the listed market buildings."

Although the proposed repair to deteriorated parts of the buildings would be of benefit to the area, Pickles considered that a "history of deliberate neglect" of the buildings meant less weight should be given to the benefits of restoration.

"Overall the secretary of state concludes that the extent of the damage that the application would cause to the important heritage assets at Smithfield runs entirely counter to national and policy objectives intended to protect such assets from harm and that this would seriously undermine any economic, social or environmental benefits otherwise arising from the development, such that the proposal would not represent sustainable development", said the letter.

The validity of the secretary of state's decision can be challenged by Henderson by application to the High Court within six weeks.