English Heritage has attacked Thornfield Properties’ plans to replace London’s Victorian Smithfield market with a 480,000 sq ft office and retail development as ‘dangerous.’

At a public enquiry into the plans this week English Heritage’s experts urged the government to block Thornfield’s application to redevelop London’s famous meat market.

Thornfield entered into a development agreement with the City of London, the freehold owner of the land, to redevelop the neglected buildings in 2002.

But Mark Dodds, a partner at Development Planning Partnership (DPP), said Thornfield and the City of London should not be allowed to benefit because the local government has failed in its duties to maintain the buildings.

‘Neither the City of London nor the applicants should benefit from this situation,’ he said. ‘Such an outcome would set an unfortunate and dangerous precedent in respect of the proper stewardship of heritage sites.’

Dodds, also criticised the use and design of the proposed buildings for failing to ‘take proper account of the context and special character of the area in which they are located.’

Smithfield renaissance

There has been a market at the site for 800 years, with the current buildings built in the late 19th century. In March 2005 Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state for culture media and sport, announced the Red House Cold Store in the market was to be listed.

English Heritage says the market is at the centre of the ‘renaissance’ of Smithfield as an urban village – creating a new evening and weekend economy and pulling investment in.

Roger Mascall, a DPP associate partner in heritage and conservation planning, criticised the plans for damaging the ‘special character’ of the area.

‘There are no grounds to justify granting consent,’ he said. ‘The proposed redevelopment does not meet the objectives, set by primary legislation, to seek to preserve or enhance the character of the Smithfield Conservation Area.’

The public enquiry is expected to end later this month.