London food markets: plan to move Smithfields, New Covent Garden and Billingsgate to Barking hits milestone

Ambitious plans to uproot central London’s historic food markets and move them up to 10 miles east to a vast new complex by the Thames have passed a major milestone.

The City of London of Corporation, which runs Smithfield meat market, Billingsgate fish market and New Spitalfields fruit and flower markets, has submitted a planning application to relocate them to the 42-acre site of the former Barking Reach power station.

The proposal would free up sites for large housing and office developments in Leyton and Poplar and a new entertainment district in the City, including a new site for the Museum of London.

If approved by Barking & Dagenham council, it will be the largest wholesale market in Britain by the planned time of opening around 2025.

The Corporation already owns the site at Dagenham Dock, having paid around £100 million for it in late 2018.

Why the plans are controversial

The most controversial move is likely to be that of Smithfield Market, the UK’s largest wholesale meat market, which has been based on the same site in Farringdon for more than 800 years.

In a preliminary consultation last year four out of five traders said they were against the move.

Planning documents submitted by the Corporation claim that “the current facilities and trading environments at the three markets are outdated and unsustainable”.

They add: “The three existing markets are located in sustainable locations that are well suited for alternative land uses such as new homes, offices, retail and cultural spaces.

“Relocating the markets provides London with an opportunity to capitalise on these large, strategic brownfield sites and deliver significant amounts of homes, jobs and cultural uses.”

Barking & Dagenham council leader Darren Rodwell said: “These developments will create thousands of jobs locally, which will make Dagenham one of the most dynamic parts of the capital and will help power east London’s economy which has been hit hard by the Covid crisis.”

James Tumbridge, chairman of the Corporation’s markets committee, said: “People across our markets are making an extraordinary effort to ensure Londoners can continue to get high-quality produce on to their plates.

“As we look beyond the current pandemic, it is so important to invest in the future and help recovery. These plans aim to provide an exciting new home for our markets at Dagenham Dock that will safeguard their long-term future, securing jobs.

“Importantly, a new food school will help to train tomorrow’s market traders by providing the skills required to develop the next generation of butchers, fishmongers and fruiterers.”



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