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Thursday31 July 2014

Blears stops KPF’s Smithfield General Market redevelopment

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Communities secretary Hazel Blears has vetoed plans by Kohn Pederson Fox to demolish a set of Victorian red brick buildings at the western edge of the historic Smithfield meat market in Farringdon, central London.

In a report released on Thursday, Blears said the KPF scheme to redevelop the site for offices would “cause harm to the character and appearance” of the local conservation area.

The proposed development would “significantly detract from the market complex as a whole”, the report said.

Developer Thornfield Properties said it was disappointed by the government’s decision, but would give “careful consideration” to the planning inspector’s report before advancing an alternative design.

Planning permission for an office scheme on the site by KPF was awarded in April 2007, but this decision came under intense scrutiny at a two-and-a-half month public inquiry which ended earlier this year.

KPF’s proposal was backed by leading figures including Aedas’s Peter Oborn, Chetwoods’ chairman Laurie Chetwood and New London Architecture director Peter Murray.

But English Heritage, heritage groups and local residents fiercely resisted the scheme. EH claimed it threatened to set a dangerous precedent by driving a “bulldozer” through national and local heritage policies.

Save Britain’s Heritage said it was “delighted” with the decision not to demolish the buildings, insisting that they could be re-used.

Marcus Binney, president of Save, said: “The General Market buildings have been scandalously neglected by the City Corporation. At the inquiry, the City conceded that the market made a significant contribution to the conservation area. The market buildings should now be offered for sale.”

A spokesman for Thornfield said: “We have been working on this project for more than five years and are committed to carrying it through to planning permission and full development of the site. We will consult widely on our new proposals with a range of stakeholders including the City of London and English Heritage, together with the Smithfield market traders.”

The decision is another disappointment for the City of London coming less than a week after a separate scheme by it and KPF near the Barbican Centre was shelved when the intended occupier, JP Morgan Chase, chose to relocate elsewhere.

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