Plans to merge three of the City’s ancient markets to one location have moved ahead as the planning application was formally filed with the council.

If the plans are approved, they will bring together the central London wholesale markets – Billingsgate (fish), New Spitalfields (fruit, vegetables and flowers) and Smithfield (meat and poultry) together for the first time in their histories, to a site outside the City, at Dagenham Dock.

A couple of years ago, in a preemptive move, the City of London bought the former Barking Reach Power Station at Dagenham Dock which was being eyed up by a number of buyers — as a possible site for their combined meat, fish and fruit/veg markets.

What is being developed is to bring the three markets to one site, but to still keep them in three separate buildings so that their individual identities are not lost under a single massive warehouse.

Concept image – from the planning application

Each floor of these buildings will have a specific use, with storage on the ground floor, market units on the first floor and offices on the second floor, and the roof could also provide a number of functions, including space for a food education centre, amenity spaces, and photovoltaic panels.

The plans also include the potential to use the nearby rail network and River Thames to transfer goods and produce.

The designs have been developed by architects Chetwoods.

Proposed layout – from the planning application

If consent is granted, the City will be required to submit a series of detailed planning applications to Barking and Dagenham Council, with the target of opening the new markets by 2025/2026.

When vacated, the Billingsgate site is reported to have the potential for 1,500 new homes, and New Spitalfields for around 1,200 homes. Smithfield is being eyed up as a cultural centre alongside the future Museum of London site.

One of the unusual side effects of decommissioning an old power station site is that it used to take cooling water from the River Thames, so there are two large tunnels running partially under the river that will need to be made safe. The plan is to backfill them with concrete.

As the outfall tunnel reaches two-thirds of the way across the river, it’s a pity that it would be probably too difficult to extend it the rest of the way and create a pedestrian tunnel linking Thamesmead to Dagenham. It’s certainly large enough – even with the internal concrete linings that would need replacing, it’s slightly wider inside than the Greenwich/Woolwich foot tunnels.

Sadly, the cost is likely to be significant to refurbish the tunnel and extend it, even though the jobs benefit to people living in Thamesmead would be equally significant.

Inside the tunnel during construction – from the planning application


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  1. Sykobee says:

    Just a note – the link to the PDF is incorrect.

  2. Sean says:

    Feel free to correct me here as I’ve no idea how this industry works but presumably with these markets moving so far out of the city the traders and many of their customers are unlikely to be moving with them? Essentially the only thing in-keeping with the ancient markets will be the name and its owner surely?

    • ianvisits says:

      The location was chosen for a mix of required size and reasonable promixity to markets – it’s in planning documents, and no organisation would move locations knowing that the majority of the customers would cease to trade with them.

    • Julian says:

      Apart from Smithfield, these markets are already “out East” – and I suspect many of the traders and customers come in from Essex anyway. I doubt many live within walking distance of the existing markets.

  3. MilesT says:

    I’m a little surprised that the cooling tunnels are not being repurposed to provide a water flow to support a heat pump heating/cooling system (driven by on site renewable energy). Might not need bith tunnels at full size.

    Cross river commuting for workers could be supported by a ferry (using the tunnels as a jetty foundation) or maybe even a dangleway 🙂

    • jason leahy says:

      There was a plan a few years ago to use heat pumps with water from the River Thames to heat buildings along the river banks but nothing happened.National Trust uses this method to heat a mansion house in Wales.

  4. Bob rose says:

    I can see a lot of the original shop owners in Smithfield closing down and a lot of the meat porters and alike becoming unemployed after the move because the traveling to barking/Dagenham is not feasible most start between 12 and 1 o’clock in the morning and most live around the borough of Islington it will take near enough 1hr to get there if the trains are running properly.

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