City Of London’s Culture Mile & Submission Of Markets Plan

Building Design is on the case today reporting the City moving forward with submitting plans for a new location for its food markets. The aim being to have the new site operational within the next six years.

The City of London Corporation has today submitted plans designed by Chetwoods for the UK’s largest wholesale food market in Dagenham.

The project would combine the current operations of historic Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields markets on one site on the very eastern edge of the capital.

The 42-acre brownfield site, chosen for its rail and river links, is the former home of Barking Reach Power Station, now known as Dagenham Dock.

The relocation of three historic markets will free up huge tracts of valuable land for mixed-used developments, the City of London Corporation has said.

Smithfield is London’s oldest market, with trading at the site stretching back for 1,000 years, and is the last wholesale market in central London. Billingsgate, the UK’s largest inland fish market, moved from the City to the Isle of Dogs in 1982. New Spitalfields, which specialises in fruit and vegetables, moved from Spitalfields to Leyton in 1991.

New Spitalfields’ 13ha site in Leyton and, in particular, Billingsate’s 5ha site next to Canary Wharf, would be ripe for redevelopment if the low-rise market buildings were swept away.

A City spokesperson told Building Design when the plans were announced in January: “The New Spitalfields and Billingsgate sites could become mixed-use developments providing new homes, work and office space; while relocating the meat market would release the Smithfield site so it can sit at the heart of a cultural district.”

The City’s “Culture Mile” project includes Stanton Williams’ new home for the Museum of London in West Smithfield. However its plan for the meat market building is for a commercial rather than a cultural development.

Chetwoods submits plans to relocate historic food markets to Dagenham by Elizabeth Hopkirk, Building Design, 3 June 2020: https://web.archive.org/web/20200603104127/https://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/chetwoods-submits-plans-to-relocate-historic-food-markets-to-dagenham/5106312.article

The planned changes detailed here will have effects across the whole of London and it is probably too late to ask why Dagenham, rather than the Western Corridor – Greenfields/Park Royal etc., where the food manufacturing industry is concentrated – was chosen? That said, moving these markets to the edge of the city is sensible and is to be welcomed, as is the use of some of the freed up land for housing; as long as this doesn’t turn out to be luxury ghost homes for investors. Nonetheless, the City has already made it clear it wants to use Smithfield and the site of the Museum of London (if it is vacated) for vanity Culture Mile projects rather than housing.

We really dislike the City of London’s ridiculous Culture Mile project, which as we have been pointing out for some time amounts to an exercise in social exclusion. Instead of using freed up space in the City to promote a bland pseudo-culture that is imposed top down after receiving the rubber stamped approval of bureaucrats, building social housing would sustain a diverse community from which vibrant new cultures can organically emerge. We don’t want a dead culture pitched to the victims of an unsustainable tourist industry. None of the exciting new cultural developments – such as grime – that have emerged from London in recent decades were funded by artwashing out-of-touch ‘patrons’ such as the City of London. Rather they grew from the very communities the Culture Mile will effectively exclude. Building council flats would do a lot more for culture in London than the Culture Mile will ever achieve. And it shouldn’t need saying that the communities cultures emerge from are far more important than any cultural objects they happen to produce.

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